Do any of the following questions sound familiar to you? Why do people choose to be depressed? Why can’t they just snap out of it? If someone is suicidal, they’re just a coward. They just act that way for attention.
The statements and ideas above are false. These are examples of the misconceptions that many people in our society have concerning mental health issues like depression and suicide. These misconceptions are caused by Stigma. Stigma is defined as a mark of blame, shame or disgrace. Stigma develops because of misinformation most often perpetuated by a lack of understanding and knowledge.
Depression is a mental illness and, as such, has a tremendous amount of stigma associated with it. One misunderstanding surrounding this mental illness suggests that a suffering individual must be dangerous or out of control in some way. Another suggests that depression is not a mental illness but rather, a choice. The impact of such stigma can be very destructive: when people suffering from depression are exposed to stigma and hear these statements it can prevent them from seeking the help that they may need. Unfortunately, if people keep their depression to themselves and do not seek any help, then they are at an increased risk to die by suicide.
By eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness, people begin to feel comfortable getting help and talking about their experiences, especially with depression and suicide. Reducing stigma can be a great challenge but it is a challenge that our local community has accepted. HelpLine of Delaware and Morrow Counties, Inc. (HelpLine) offers education programs to inform the community about mental illness, specifically depression and suicide, so that each person can learn the truth about these issues. Once people are educated, stigma can begin to decrease. As people become aware of the harmful impacts of stigma, they can begin to change the way they think and talk about mental illness.
This year, Mental Health Awareness Week will be celebrated May 4th through May 10th. The Delaware Suicide Prevention Coalition, supported by HelpLine, will be partnering with the Delaware Council for Older adults to bring awareness to the types of wellness and support that can aid a struggling person in gaining control over their mental illness. Throughout this week, HelpLine staff will challenge older adults in the community to be active participants in their own wellness and to help reduce stigma in the community. HelpLine invites you to participate by doing something for yourself and for someone in your life:
- Monday – Get Outside!
- Tuesday – Reconnect with an Old Friend or Make a New One!
- Wednesday – Do Something Nice for Someone – Even if You Don’t Know Them!
- Thursday – Hobbies and Coping Skills: They’re One in the Same!
- Friday – Spread the Word! Share something you learned with someone else and help us to create a stigma-free community.
It might sound like a difficult task but you can start by reducing your own actions that perpetuate the stigma around depression. Be aware of the things that you say and the jokes that you make. Are you using words like ’crazy’ when talking about depression? Are you avoiding the topic of suicide if it is discussed? If someone in your life is depressed don’t be afraid to talk to them. Help them get help. Once you change these behaviors in yourself others may follow. You can lead by example in your community and inform others about the facts around depression and suicide. To learn more information about how you can reduce stigma, go to www.bringchange2mind.org.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, confidential help and information are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 740.369.3316, 419.947.2520, or 1.800.684.2324.