Depression is a mental illness and right there with the words “mental illness”, people’s eyes widen and they shift just a little further away from you. Although the facts about clinical depression are becoming more common knowledge, this has become a double-edged sword for many depressives. They fear that others will stigmatize them for having a mental illness.
Say Hello To Your Stereotype
The two big misconceptions about depressives or anyone else with a mental illness is that they are a danger to others and that they are completely insane. Both are false. The stereotypical patient with mental illness is someone straight out of the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975). If someone finds out that you have depression, that person may not want much to do with you, based on their misconceptions that you are dangerously irrational or will suddenly become so at any second.
Even if you firmly know you are not dangerous to others and have a good handle on reality, you worry that other people just will not understand what it is you are going through. Just in 1972, Vice Presidential candidate Senator Thomas Eagleton was dumped eighteen days into the campaign by Presidential candidate George McGovern when news came to light that Eagleton had had shock treatments for depression. The stigma that he was crazy got him knocked off of the ticket not his actual performance as a Senator.
If a depressive isn’t good enough to run for Vice President, then how will family and employers take the news that you have depression?
Say Goodbye To Your Stereotype
People with many kinds of mental illness, including major depression or bipolar disorder, can lead more or less normal lives. They can hold down a job, raise a family and keep many commitments. They are not dangerous and if they have thoughts about harming someone, it’s only about harming themselves.
The nature of the mental illness is not that they are completely removed from reality. The mental illness that many depressives go through is that they have a distorted view of reality when it comes to looking at themselves. They often see themselves as incurable and their lives as pointless. They may be so preoccupied with what is wrong with them that they cannot see all of the things that are going right in their lives.
This stigma surrounding depression keeps many people from getting the help that they need. This happens especially in cultures that teach that people should be self-sufficient and that depression is not a disease. When then Philadelphia Eagles star Shawn Andrews announced in 2008 that he had depression, many mental health experts hoped that this would be major step in helping to squash the stigma of depression in African-American culture. In 2010, Andrews began playing for the New York Giants. Whether Andrews’ confession helped other African-Americans to seek help is unknown, but at least he confronted the stigma of depression in a very public way.
“The Family Intervention Guide to Mental Illness: Recognizing Symptoms & Getting Teatment.” Bodie Morey & Kim T. Muesser, Ph.D. New Harbinger Publications; 2007.
Mayo Clinic. “Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness.” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mental-health/MH00076
ESPN.com. “Eagles guard Andrews reports after 17-day absence.” http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/trainingcamp08/news/story?id=3528688
Author suffers from endogenous recurring depression