The internet is full of good, useful information. Everyone knows this. It’s hard for me to fathom growing up without Google and having to, God forbid, go to a library to look up information in, what, books? Thank God for the Internet — most days.
It’s very easy to feel angry while spending time on the internet, however, thanks to social media. There is a meme that circulates around Facebook every couple of months, and every time I see it, I consider chucking my smartphone into a river. I could obviously share this particular photo and post my thoughts on my own Facebook page, but why do that when I now have this column with which to vent all of my frustrations to you lovely readers?
It is a photo of a beautiful green forest and the text over the image says “Pills won’t cure your depression, nature will” or something similarly infuriating. What is astounding to me is that people share or retweet this sentiment genuinely, as if they believe it. They believe major depressive disorder can be cured by… going outside or taking a walk or looking at some trees.
I’m no doctor (sorry, Mom, Dad) but the last time I checked, depression is a medical disorder that often requires treatment from a doctor, sometimes even a psychiatrist, who prescribes anti-depressants to those who need them. Depression can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, life events and other medical problems, but one factor of depression includes a chemical imbalance of the brain, which anti-depressants are used to help correct.
Anti-depressants do not cure depression; they help to treat it. Hannah Hart, an online content creator that I admire, once described using anti-depressants like this: “Let’s say you’re walking around with a 50-pound lead blanket over your shoulders. Anti-depressants make that blanket 10 pounds. It doesn’t mean that there’s no blanket at all; it doesn’t mean that you’re a different person. It’s just there to kind of help carry the weight.”
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, around 13% of Americans use anti-depressants. That’s 13% of Americans who rely on their medication to cope with an illness that goes mostly unseen, who face challenges that affect their diet, sleeping habits, relationships, work and school performance and other facets of their lives. That’s 13% of Americans who are brave enough to seek medical assistance because they know that taking a walk and getting some fresh air doesn’t work for everyone, and that is okay.
Moreover, medication is not for everyone, and that is also okay.
Going around and spreading misinformation about depression and its treatment perpetuates the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Referring to someone who goes to counseling or therapy as “crazy” perpetuates the stigma. Laughing at the idea that someone who is not a military veteran could have Post Traumatic Stress perpetuates the stigma. Carelessly throwing around the word “bipolar” to describe a shift in mood or behavior perpetuates the stigma.
There is a difference between being depressed and suffering from major depressive disorder, and those who take medication to treat their mental illness do not need to be shamed by silly posts on the Internet. What works for one person may not work for everyone else. It all comes back to that pesky phrase we all learned in kindergarten: think before you speak. I guess we need an updated version: think before you post.
Hazel would like to remind all readers that crisis counselors are available 24/7 through crisis hotlines. Text CONNECT to 741741 to get free help now.