By: Meghan Abbott, Public Relations and Events Intern
The advancement of the internet has made great strides in the world of mental health. It’s easier than ever before to find online support and information about mental illnesses. We are able to connect to people around the world, and share ideas and information at lightning speed. Websites and blogs are taking up the fight against stigma while local organizations are reaching out and spreading the word about their resources through social media. We have so much knowledge at our fingertips, and people are generally more educated about mental health than in the past. Unfortunately, there is a downside to this widespread communication.
With the ability to broadcast your every thought at the click of a button and the onslaught of baseless online sources parading as fact, some people seem to believe they know more about mental health than actual mental health practitioners. There seems to be a negative climate surrounding medication and mental illness, so much so that it has become common practice to berate or patronize those who take antidepressants. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the popular examples below.
Depression is treated like a choice or a strange quirk that can be fixed if you just take the right approach. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve had people offer advice as if they were my doctor. “You just need to think positive,” “Have you tried yoga?”, or “You should meditate and exercise more.” They’ll tell me I’m hooked on my medication, that the big bad pharmaceutical company is using me to make money, that I should quit taking them. Average people with no psychiatric experience, in their arrogance, assume they are smarter than those with licenses, or worse, talk down to me as if I have been duped by doctors and have no agency in my own treatment. Their hearts may be in the right place, but these attitudes are extremely damaging and perpetuate stigma around mental illness.
There is nothing wrong with using those suggested methods to lift your spirits. In combination with a solid treatment plan, they may even be beneficial. Not everyone who is depressed take medication, and different methods work for different people. However, in disparaging antidepressants, you suggest that depression is not, in fact, a real illness.
In actuality, the right approach may be medication. We would never tell someone with cancer to stop taking their chemo pills. We would never shame someone with diabetes for taking insulin. In my case, depression is a brain chemistry issue; my brain does not produce the proper amount of serotonin, and my medication inhibits reuptake of serotonin, therefore making more available. It does not put me in a daze, it does not change my personality; it’s like putting on glasses after years of being unable to see.
It is time we start treating mental illness like it really is: an illness.