To the girl on the beach yesterday, whose friend was telling her that depression can be passed down genetically, and kept asking, “what do I have to be depressed about?” and insisting that she couldn’t possibly get depressed:
Your friend is correct. Depression can be passed on genetically, however, just as your friend was trying to point out, that does not necessarily mean that it will be.
Yes, if one of your parents has depression, or any other mental illness, you are at a higher risk of developing the same or any other mental illness, but that does not necessarily mean, 100%, that you will. Nor does depression require that your parents have any mental illness at all.
I wanted so badly to speak up and tell you that depression does not require a traumatic event or bad situation to effect you. You could lead a perfectly normal, even spectacular life, and still have depression.
As I contemplated saying something to you and your friend, my anxiety kicked in and told me that you would respond by calling me rude and that you were having a private conversation, even though it was quite loud and I was less than 10 feet away from you, and that you would be angry with me, a complete stranger, for intruding on your conversation. So I didn’t. But I wish I had.
You are contributing to the stigma. I know you weren’t doing it intentionally, and that it is simply a lack of knowledge that contributed to you response, but that is the biggest problem.
Everyone needs to be educated on the topic of mental illness and mental health! Even with all the recent accomplishments in this area (a lot of which, I think, can be attributed to Clara Hughes riding her bike across Canada to raise awareness for mental health), unfortunately you reminded me that the majority of Canadians are still extremely lacking in knowledge and understanding when it comes to mental illness.
I do have depression (as well as an anxiety disorder), but I don’t feel I have anything to be depressed about. I have a great family. I have never experienced a traumatic event. I have none of the obvious things that someone would see and think, oh, it makes sense that she is depressed. Yet, I still have depression. I feel worthless, like I have accomplished nothing with my life and I will never be happy. But I know it isn’t logical and I am fighting those thoughts and feelings, but it is hard. Depression can be very debilitating.
I am not the only one who struggles with this either. Many people feel guilty and ashamed for feeling depressed because there is no logical reason, in their mind, for them to feel this way. This is the reason many go for so long without seeking help, because of the stigma.
Depression is an illness like any other. It effects your brain, so it is not obvious to the outside world that something is wrong, and this is why so many people often go undiagnosed and too many end up attempting suicide before getting help, before anyone close to them even knew something was wrong. And unfortunately some do commit suicide and never get the help they needed that could have allowed them to live a long, happy life.
We need to bring more awareness and understanding to mental illness so people will stop feeling ashamed to talk about it.
Please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association‘s website to learn more about mental illnesses and mental health. Take the time to learn about it and make yourself, and those around you, aware and understanding of how mental illnesses can effect everyone.