Depression – Changing the Stigma

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, September 26, 2018
By Michelle Gonzalez, PSY.D., LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor & Doctor in Psychology

Depression is a real illness. The REALITY is that many people will not talk about nor share their depression with loved ones or friends. They try to hide their “imperfections” and frustrations until they can no longer handle their feelings. By the time their stress and daily pressures have escalated they contemplate suicide and at times even succeed. For them, THIS IS their only way out.

Depression can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re wealthy or poor. It can affect anyone despite their economic background, their social status, their cultural background and even their profession.
World Suicide Prevention Day was on Monday, September 10th. I have been reflecting with my own patients. These are both patients who have contemplated suicide and patients who had loved ones who have committed suicide. After hearing their stories, I feel there are major factors and stigmas contributing to depression. I’m talking about things that we don’t hear on the news or within organizations.

The truth is that people want to hide their problems from close family and friends. In general, most people don’t want others to know about their problems. They don’t want others to judge them. They don’t want others to know that they don’t live the “perfect” life that most think they have. As a result, this brings shame. This also brings feelings of inadequacy and feelings of sadness. Imagine keeping all your feelings bottled up. How long can you do that before you lose control?
So the real question I ask myself and all of you is…What can you do to start changing this stigma? Let’s do it by changing the conversations in our homes. Don’t be afraid to share with your intimate family members – whether it be your children, your spouse, and even your parents! Make sure that you’re open. Let them know that it’s ok for anyone to talk about their imperfections. Let them know that it’s ok to talk about the shame we may feel. Let them know that it’s ok to share your pressures – whether that be due to financial reasons or even relationship issues. Share what you feel and share those inadequacies. You never know who can relate to you.
Don’t be ashamed of what your feeling or the pressures you may be feeling. No one is perfect!
The stigma lies not in talking about mental health in general but in the conversations held in each home or within families. Life is stressful but it’s also how you handle these pressures…THAT is the key! 
If you think your friend or loved one is depressed, make sure they have someone to talk to because chances are you have no idea what is going on in their minds. Remember, sometimes appearances can be deceiving and what we see – may not be the truth.
If you’re feeling sad, feeling helpless, feeling negative, losing your motivation, and don’t find joy in the little things get help. It’s okay.