Yesterday I came across this tweet:
1. False. 2. You’re not “sad.” You’re insane & can’t move on & need help. 3. False. 4. Energy drink tagline/bullshit. 5. Fuck you/no thread https://t.co/RnFdzeMi6e
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 8, 2017
It was Patton’s response to this tweet:
Depression isn’t real. You feel sad, you move on. You will always be depressed if your life is depressing. Change it. Thread.
— Andrew Tate (@Cobratate) September 7, 2017
Which let me to retweet it with this:
A major reason people don’t seek help for mood disorders is ignorant comments like this furthering the stigmas of mental illness. https://t.co/qi6Kp3haXt
— Debi V. Smith (@DebiVSmith) September 9, 2017
People still get it wrong. They still equate sadness with depression when they are nothing alike. I know some people use the words as if they are interchangeable but they are not. They can coexist but they are still different. I’ve been sad. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been suicidal. I’ve lost loved ones and friends to suicide. When you take the viewpoint of Andrew Tate, his words in the quoted tweet and all that follow in his thread are words that drive people to hide and not share their pain. They are a harsh judgment that everything experienced is a choice and they have full control over it. So when you break it down, what is really being said is, you have no one to blame but yourself. Looking specifically at “you will always be depressed if your life is depressing” misses the mark by a mile and shows he has no clue what depression really is or that people who seem to have it all struggle with depression. I still remember when Jared Padalecki (Supernatural, Gilmore Girls) publicly announced that he has Depression, someone actually told him he has nothing to be depressed about.
One of my professors described it as a verb, as it’s not an actual state but of getting to that state, that we aren’t depressed, we are depressing. Experiencing it myself and working with clients with Depression, I think it’s a combination of depressing and the state of being depressed and it looks just a little different for everyone. Depression often comes with intense emotional and physical pain that becomes the center of daily living. In some cases, it can be managed with medication and therapy.
But there are barriers. The stigma of mental illness that keeps people from seeking help even if they know they need it. If they know people close to them don’t agree with medication and/or therapy, they will avoid treatment to avoid the judgment from those who should be supporting them. Unhelpful advice that treats depression and other mental illnesses as if they are just feelings, blips on the radar that you can get rid of easily.
The following is an excerpt from The Downward Spiral of things people say to someone who is depressed and potentially suicidal:
Push through it. It’s just stress. Just think positive thoughts and you’ll be better. Have you tried to exercise more? Maybe you need to sleep more. You need to eat more. The pharmaceutical companies and doctors just want your money. Your life could be worse. Maybe you need a real job where you socialize with co-workers every day. Yeah, I get depressed too, then I call my best friend and I’m fine. It’s all in your head. You’re being selfish. (page 22-23)
What they really need is unconditional support from their family and friends. They need to know if they express their pain that they will not be met with judgment, minimizing/gaslighting/manipulation of their situation, and advice. Often the things that are said are things that make the person trying (and failing) to provide comfort feel comfortable. We shouldn’t feel comfortable and we should never make someone else’s situation about ourselves because it isn’t. They are the ones in pain. They are the ones needing help. They are the ones that need comfort.
Here are some more helpful things to say:
- Instead of “Push through it,” you can say, I’m here for you.
- Instead of “It’s just stress,” you can say, I’m here for you.
- Instead of “Just think positive thoughts and you’ll be better,” you can say, I’m here for you.
- Instead of “Have you tried to exercise more,” you can say, I’m here for you.
- Instead of “Maybe you need to sleep more,” you can say, I’m here for you.
- Instead of “The pharmaceutical companies and doctors just want your money,” I’m here for you.
- Instead of “Your life could be worse,” I’m here for you.
See where I’m going with this? The primary need is knowing they can count on the people they trust, that they will be supported no matter what. Ask them what they need, they may not know and that’s okay, reiterate that you support them.
Things you can do to help (not a comprehensive list):
- Offer to take them to an appointment if they don’t have transportation or if they are signaling that they are hesitant and aren’t sure about going. This relates directly back to unconditional support. If they know you support them and are willing to be with them (you won’t be allowed in the session) will increase the chances of them following through.
- If you’ve asked them what they need previously, circle back and ask again at a later date. They might know. And if all they answer with is, a fuzzy blanket to wrap themselves in, that’s okay because that really may be all they need. Sometimes sensory/tactile stimuli can help manage triggers.
- Offer to socialize with them one-on-one if they don’t want to socialize in groups or out in public.
- If you know they have a crisis plan, ask if they will share it with you so you can help if/when necessary.
- Check out what your local/state suicide prevention services are. If there are none or they don’t seem adequate, advocate with your lawmakers to create/improve them. Same with access to mental health services—access here means not only accessible through insurance but within a reasonable distance and appropriate transportation, because not everyone has services available nearby nor the transportation to get there and medical transportation options are sometimes restrictive.
- Counter stigma where you come across it, whether it’s something someone else says that they try to pass off as a joke, something said out of ignorance, uses depressed when they mean sad, etc. Staying silent when you have the opportunity to challenge falsehoods only allows stigmas to continue.
One last thing you need to understand if you’ve never personally dealt with depression and suicide is that no matter how much unconditional support you give, no matter how much you help, your loved one may still choose to end their own life and it has nothing to do with what you did or didn’t do.
It has everything to do with their pain and suffering.