Fight the stigma of depression and mental illness

August 13, 2014

stigma-chalkboardWhether you know it or not, mental illness has touched your life.

Someone in your circle has a mental illness.

You may not know it, but they do.

They know it all too well.

The reason YOU don’t know it is that it remains hidden and one reason is the stigma.

The stigma of being thought “crazy.”

Or flawed. Or weak.

abuse-deepestscarsOn CNN recently, Dr. Drew pointed out in the strongest of terms that our nation must remove the stigma surrounding depression and to remember that “it’s a medical condition and it can be treated.”

Clinical depression is serious stuff, although from the way psychotropic drugs are handed out for every little downward blip, you wouldn’t think so.

No, the real deal– clinical depression — is serious.

It’s not “being a little blue.”

You can’t just “get over it.

Telling someone to “cheer up” isn’t useful.

Depression  Depression is dark.

To the person who suffers from it, it can feel like falling off a cliff.

Sometimes it’s impossible to live a “normal” life in the throes of depression.  But it can be treated. And those suffering depression need our support, not our judgment.

Treatment’s not always simple. Sometimes the disease can be resistant. It might take a cocktail of anti-depressants –and meds often need to be adjusted as the disease shifts.

One size does not fit all.

Dr. Drew’s right: mental illness of any kind is a MEDICAL CONDITION. Those who have the condition shouldn’t be stigmatized.

IT CAN BE TREATED.  Sometimes there’s a belief that taking meds is a sign of weakness. That “gutting it out” is preferable.

That’s old-school thinking that reflects the stigma that still exists.  If meds are called for, it’s important to give them a try.

Here’s what you can do to fight mental illness:

Get educated. Learn about it.

Don’t minimize it.

Don’t stigmatize it.

Don’t be afraid of it.

th-1And for God’s sake, if someone you love has depression (or any mental illness) don’t hide in denial.  Seek a better understanding of the disease and what you can do to be really helpful.

Support friends and family who suffer a mental illness as they get treated.

Robin Williams’ suicide started a new discussion about depression.  The price of that discussion was awfully high.

But in his memory, let’s keep it going.

Rest now, gentle soul.

Robin Williams

42 comments on “Fight the stigma of depression and mental illness
  1. joan says:

    Thanks for posting this! It’s so important !!! Unfortunately/fortunately I understand….

  2. Hear, hear. Even without Mr. Williiams’ untimely death at the hands of depression, it is a subject that is well worth discussing. Part of the problem for me is the tendency to hand out drugs at the drop of a hat, assuming that the problem is depression when it may be something else instead.

    The important thing is to fight the stigma of mental illness. It’s real, it’s a medical condition – whether bipolar, schizophrenia or depression – it can be treated. And it deserves our support and love for those who suffer.

  3. I’ve suffered from clinical depression for years. I was diagnosed when I was in my 30’s. What we thought was PMS turned out to be something far more serious. My synapses do not fire correctly. I liken it to diabetes. You can’t see that person needs insulin to live normally. But they do. I need anti-depressants to make me “normal”. And that cloak, that blanket that falls on top of you when depression is in full swing? It cannot be budged. I’ve been in “that” place where Robin was the other day. Twice. Thankfully, I did not succeed in my attempts to make the pain go away. But at the time … there was no other fix for the pain. Death was the only fix. When I learned of Robin’s death, I was devastated, but I totally get it. Unfortunately.

  4. Donna says:

    My mother committed suicide, and each time something likes this occurs the pain returns. I am not sure why she did it and that is an enormous part of the pain. I suffered for 10 years with depression before I understood exactly what was going on. I was different than my mother, I was not an alcoholic or a drug addict the way she was….but when i finally got it I was blessed to find help. It took a long time, but I am getting better

    • I’m so sorry for your loss and can’t even fathom the pain. I’m glad you are getting better.

    • Ken says:

      My father committed suicide when I was 8, and I’ve never known why he did it, or even if he did it. Maybe he overdosed inadvertently? But I don’t really believe that. I do know that the fact of his death has been my constant companion for decades, and when I get in the hole, if it gets bad and deep enough, I sometimes wonder if this is a station he passed through on the way to the last stop. In a way, I’ve been lucky. I have a vivid sense of what can happen if the demon gets a firm grip, and I’ve always been able to pry his talons loose.

      I have a scarf with the legend “Aimons nous les uns les autres,” Let us love one another. And let us know we are loved. Knowing that may save us.

  5. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    In 1965, William Styron ( Sophie’s Choice, etc) went into a hole so black, he nearly lost himself. His memoir, “Darkness Visible” is a clear depiction of what manic, clinical depression feels like.

  6. Pat says:

    Thanks for posting this… such an important reminder. Everyone has dealt with individually or knows someone in the family who has suffered from depression.

  7. Carol Graham says:

    Your statement “those who are depressed need our support, not our judgment” is so important. Thank you for this and hopefully this post and others like it will bring clearer understanding of this illness.

  8. Lisa Froman says:

    This is such an important topic to discuss. Robin Williams’ death has triggered so much needed discussion. What a beautiful soul he was…..

  9. Carol though I am heartbroken that yet again it takes a tragedy for us to discuss mental illness in this country I am glad we are doing it. The fact that it is an illness and can be tricky sometimes to manage is so important. If someone is suffering and can not get relief, it’s not their fault anymore than if they had cancer and were not getting better. I and some of my close friends and family have been so lucky to be able to benefit from therapy and medication, but I have had a few friends who have suffered greatly. Thank you for your wonderful piece.

  10. I agree with everything you wrote Carol. Mental illness has touched all our lives. Thanks you for your wonderful post!

  11. Hi Carol. I think it is hard for those of us who don’t suffer from it to really understand the pain of it. Thank you for sharing. ~Kathy

  12. The information I’m reading about depression after hearing of Robin Williams death is very eye opening and helpful. I thought I was educated and “understood” the disease, but am realizing I’ve never had the full story and may never fully understand it, but now have more information which could help if a family member or close friend suffer from depression in the future.

  13. Having Feltys syndrome I have suffered from depression for many years and when becoming a caregiver on top of all of this no one was more surprised than me when it surfaced again. Only worse but knowing my body and mind also learning more about it I was able to recognize it for what it was and stop it before it became worse. Education is the key to everything.

  14. WendysHat says:

    I believe that mental illness of any type is the plague of our time and something that every family deals with in some way. Even a person with the best support system and best doctors, who loves living, can have a dark moment that he will never come back from. I know this from family experience. My heart goes out to everyone affected.

  15. Ruth Curran says:

    Here is the thing that is so often overlooked. There are things in our life that we can just push through — real chemical imbalances are not among those. We can’t wake up one day and say “change damned chemicals” and have it be so. Self medicating is the scary by-product of the “stigma” of mental illness — reaching for anything to feel normal. We have to back off and let people seek help — get off the self-destructive path and move to better living. Perfect perspective on the sad reality.

  16. Tammy says:

    So well said, so beautifully written. Bravo!

  17. Outstanding post, Carol! Shame on those that still minimize the medical illness mental illness is. It both angers and saddens me to hear platitudes doled out as though depression or bipolar disease can be fixed with a simple Hallmark card. Mental illness needs to be openly discussed, without shame or judgment, in the same way we discuss other illnesses (such as cancer). No one ever tells a cancer patient to “just get over it.”

    Off to share.

  18. So important. I can’t understand why there would be any stigma attached to mental illness. I hope that Robin Williams’ tragic death opens up the conversation and allows people to ask for and receive the help they so desperately need and deserve.

  19. Rest gentle, indeed Carol. My heart aches for him, and also for how this story hit the thousands or more people suffering with depression. Education and awareness is the key, so many thanks for writing this post. xo

  20. Both my father and my grandfather (on my mother’s side) committed suicide. Depression still exists in my world today. For those of us who don’t suffer, it’s hard to relate. But it really is an illness, just like my high blood pressure. Your piece shows you have a great understanding of it. Yesterday was a sad day in my house, remembering those we lost to the illness. I hope the sad loss of Robin Williams opens up a conversation in this country about why we need good health care that helps those who suffer from both physical and psychological problems. Great post.

  21. Lana says:

    There is a lot of clinical depression on my dad’s side of the family. Two of his uncle’s committed suicide, and my father has been treated for depression and alcoholism for many years. You are right, there is a difference between this and “the blues”. I’m so, so sad that we lost Robin Williams – he was such a beautiful light in this world. But I do hope that his death opens up some discussion about this illness.

  22. Donna says:

    Depression was my default emotion for such a long time. So grateful it is better.
    There is a lot of life left

  23. You are so right Carol. After the suicide of my stepson and murder of my brother nearly every member of our family was diagnosed with something dark. Some still battle. Those of us that found our way back to the light work very hard to stop the stigma.
    Thank you for keeping the conversation going xxxooo

  24. Ellen Dolgen says:

    So tragic…. depression and mental illness is something that has touched everyone in one way or another…………friends or family members. I have no patience for those who think you can magically be fine. These are REAL medical issues that need to addressed with dignity, compassion and respect. Thank you for your great post!

  25. bodynsoil says:

    You bring up some very good points here and people need to be more cognizant of depression and how to be more open minded. Coming from a family who all suffers from depression has given me a little insight as to how others feel..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.