“Some people are relieved. Here’s an explanation for what’s going on with you. It’s a medical condition, and it’s highly treatable,” says Ashley J. Smith, PhD, a licenced clinical psychologist in Kansas City, MO, and co-founder of the Peak Mind psychological centre.
She claims that other people are struggling with the diagnosis. You might think to yourself, “I have depression.” What does this mean for me? ‘Do I have flaws or am I broken?’”
It can be difficult to learn that you have a mood disorder. According to Jameca Cooper, PhD, a counselling psychologist in St. Louis and president and clinical director of Emergence Psychological Services, you may even feel ashamed if your family or community dismisses mental health conditions.
“Many of my patients tell me that their families don’t believe in mental health issues like depression or anxiety,” Cooper says. “They sometimes refer to baby boomer parents who say, ‘Just suck it up.’ Let it go. Just make sure you get enough rest. Simply put in more effort.’… Many people’s families regard mental health as a weakness.”
She adds that some people come from communities that do not believe in mental health diagnoses. “There is no such thing as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia in their home countries. They could call it something else, or they could group all of them together.”
Smith, a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, suggests educating yourself and your loved ones about depression by visiting reputable websites such as the ADAA’s website. “There are myths out there, and you must understand: ‘Here is the actual science, here is what we actually know about it.’ And that can help dispel some of those myths and criticisms,” Smith explains.
“‘We have to work hard to help people understand that mental illness has nothing to do with your character,” she continues. “It has nothing to do with your worth as a human being or your intelligence. It’s a neurobiological condition.”
Who to Ask for Support
Talk to your family and close friends about your depression diagnosis if they accept that mental health conditions are serious health conditions, according to Cooper and Smith.
“We require strong backing. We require healthy interpersonal relationships. And you need that more than ever when you’re depressed,” Smith says. “Being open with the people in your life aids in the maintenance of those connections, which is a protective factor.”
If depression has made you irritable, negative, or uncommunicative, a candid conversation could help them understand what you’ve been going through, she says. They can then encourage you and assist you in sticking to your treatment plan.
Cooper advises telling your loved ones what kind of assistance you require. Make an effort to be specific. Perhaps all you need is understanding and patience, rather than frequent phone calls to check in on you. Or perhaps you’d appreciate a helping hand with certain responsibilities, such as meal preparation or picking up the kids from school.
If you’ve previously heard your loved ones mock or dismiss mental health issues, you can still try to educate them about your diagnosis. Cooper suggests that if you’re looking for guidance and understanding, you should look elsewhere.
You can connect with people other than your family and friends. One viable option is to join a local or virtual depression support group. There, you can meet people who understand what you’re going through and may be able to offer you advice that has helped them. According to Cooper, a support group can be especially beneficial if other factors in your life, such as a serious health condition or ongoing grief from a personal loss, are contributing to your depression.
If you are religious, you can incorporate your faith into your healing process. According to Cooper, some churches, for example, provide support groups and various types of counselling.
Getting specific depression support is important, but you can also benefit from indirect emotional boosts. Smith suggests that you volunteer for a cause that makes you happy. “When you find a sense of meaning and purpose, when you engage with other people, when you do activities that matter,” she says, “those can actually help address some symptoms of depression.”
Physical activity, she adds, is a great way to help take control of depression. “A gym or exercise facility can also provide that sense of community and support while also providing that exercise.”
Work closely with your doctor or therapist as you come to terms with your diagnosis and seek emotional support.
or a mental health professional Inquire with them about which treatments and lifestyle changes may help you feel your best. “There are numerous pathways that can lead to depression,” Smith explains. “That also means we have a wide range of treatment options available to us.”