The Real Me: The Stigma Surrounding Depression | Ali Schulte | [email protected]


Translator: Natalie Thibault
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney I recently had to write
a few short essays about myself, for my college counseling office. I am a strong writer, and I am passionate about
my future as a college student. But, I was at a loss. I was at a loss, sitting
in front of my computer trying to come up with what to write, because I lead two lives. There’s the life my friends
and family would tell you about; I’m a dedicated student, a dancer,
the captain of the Ethics Bowl team, and socially involved with my peers. But there’s also the life
I don’t talk about. In this life, I’m still
all of those things, but I’m also greatly
influenced by depression. The assignment was to write
about “the real me,” but I sat there in front of my computer, wondering if I could write
about the real me, and not have my college
recommendations suffer. I wondered if my college counselors
would even want to read about the real me, or if they just wanted the story
my friends and family know. I was diagnosed with major
depressive disorder and anxiety about a year and a half ago, and I struggled with it for roughly
a year before diagnosis. This is not a sad story: this is a success story. I still suffer, and I still struggle
to get up every morning. I still second-guess
all of my relationships, and I still have trouble concentrating, and I still don’t feel safe from myself, but this is a success story,
because I lived. I’ve had two major suicidal
episodes in my lifetime, and I’ve survived both. 15 percent of people diagnosed
with depression will die by suicide, making the estimated annual suicide count
slightly under one million deaths, and that’s just per year. That’s eight times more than the number
of deaths from the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Depression is ongoing; there’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. I was one of the lucky ones,
because I spoke out and I got help. But because of the stigma surrounding
mental illness, many do not. In the United States, 17 percent
of the adult population will suffer from depression
during their lifetime. This is big. One out of every five of your friends
and family members will suffer from depression. You might not know about it,
but it’s happening. This is so real, and it’s everywhere around us. We need to be conscious of it. We need to be aware. We need to help these people
that are suffering. The stigma that depression
is a sign of a bad attitude, or a sign of weakness, is real. Would you rather tell your
partner, your friend, your parent, your child,
that you broke your arm? Or that you have depression? On top of that, only
14 percent of countries have a suicide prevention plan, despite the fact that depression
is a proven epidemic. We, as a global community, need
to address that we have a problem, if we want to find a solution. I don’t have the solution
to breaking down the stigma, but I do need to stress
how important it is not to give up, on people struggling with depression. The illness holds a veil over your eyes, so that you constantly feel
like you’re on the verge of being abandoned. Some people try to cut
negativity out of their lives, but this only enforces the idea that the person struggling
with depression is unwanted. A common misconception
is that depression is sadness. Sadness is a normal,
temporary response we feel when something has gone
wrong in our lives. Depression is like a parasite: It slithers into your body,
at no fault of your own. It takes up residence in your mind,
and stays for however long it likes, making you feel powerless. Depression is feeling sad when
everything in your life is going right. The depression won’t go away, but it can be shrunk. It can be shrunk back down
to the size of sadness. But to do this, it needs
to be recognized. The symptoms manifest in teens
very differently than in adults. The ones that come to mind for most people are persistent sadness, insomnia,
and loss of interest in activities. But for teens, the common symptoms are irritability, unexplained
aches and pains, and extreme sensitivity to criticism. We need to be conscious of the symptoms, so we can help people in our lives
when we recognize them. If you think that you may have depression,
talk to your primary care doctor. They’ll give you a quick
10-question survey to evaluate the severity of your symptoms and refer you to some therapists
in your community. That’s it. It’s a 10-minute conversation
that could save your life. If you think that somebody you know
is struggling from depression, engage with them; enforcing the idea, and the notion
that they have their positive impact on your day-to-day life, and make sure
that they recognize that. Validate their feelings,
invite them on outings, even as simple as going on a walk,
and keep trying if he or she declines. Remind them that they have more
things to do in their lifetime, and encourage them to seek help. Most of all, and that is what
helped me the most, enforce the idea that depression
is not their destiny. To remember this, I came up
with this handy acronym called “DEVOTE.” D : Remind them that
this isn’t their destiny. E : Engage with them. V : Validate their feelings. O : Invite them on outings. T : Remind them they have
more things to do. E : Encourage them to seek help. I don’t want to live in a world
where a fundamental piece of my identity has to remain hidden. I don’t want to live in fear
of myself for the rest of my life. I refuse to be suffocated by my disease. When I wrote my college
essays from the office, I wrote about who
I recognize as the real me. Change starts here. If we, the unheard
suffering voices, speak out we will be heard. Stand up for the acceptance of you. We deserve to have society put up a fight, because depression is not our destiny. Thank you.

16 comments

  1. How does this have only 2000 seens. let's get this thing on social networks, goddammit, i'm not going to lose any of my people.

  2. Chemical depression ya I have it. Add addiction onto that and social anxiety. There is no way out of this much pain

  3. good talk. I have fought depression since I was 14. I am now 56. It helps to realize that what you are fighting is not a figment of your imagination,but a real biological malfunction of the brain.

  4. Hello. Thank you to share the wonderful messengers on the video. You are beautiful shinning down from sky Heaven Above, wonderful lovely smiling brightten all around, wherever you at. You had a Gifts from Above. You are truly making a difference to people life. Thank you to share your love compassion, appreciating so much, more then word could ever saying. Admire, respect. Much love. Peace. Pray may all the best for you.

  5. I found a medication that works for me and it has dulled my depression. I feel a lot more "normal". I actually found out that I do have a chemical imbalance because of some dna mutations that directly effect the methylation of epinephrines and all those chemicals that are supposed to turn into dopamine. Taking a common DNA test and uploading my raw information to a certain website helped me to figure this out. Now I know it's not just in my head and there is help.

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