4 FALSE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THOSE WHO SUFFER FROM DEPRESSION
By Vivian Bricker
As someone who struggles with depression, I have come across many hurtful comments and false assumptions about this mood disorder. Unfortunately, many individuals are uneducated on mental health, and this causes them to have false beliefs about many mental health issues. Rather than being someone who goes along with the crowd and believes these false assumptions, try to educate yourself on depression and other mental health issues. By being knowledgeable about mental health issues, you can help more people in their struggles and connect with them on a deeper level. Here are four false assumptions about depression.
1. It’s a “spiritual problem.”
Mental illnesses are sometimes discarded as “spiritual problems.” Personally, this caused my mental illnesses to worsen, including my depression. When struggling with depression, people need others to be there for them and love them as they are so they don’t feel so alone. If mental illness is shrugged away as a “spiritual problem,” those suffering might draw deeper into depression or other mental health issues.
Depression is a mood disorder that profoundly affects someone. It can make their entire existence go dark. I have struggled with depression for over a decade, and at times, it can feel like sinking under the depths of the illness itself, drowning in deep darkness, sadness, and pain. To help someone with depression, listen to their struggles, show up for them, and validate their pain. Maybe you don’t have any experience with depression, and you’re unsure how to help. Try one of the following suggestions, or send a kind message to remind them you are always there for them. Depression makes it easy for those suffering from it to back away and isolate themselves from the world. However, they need to know others are there, care, and will stick around.
2. They are not finding joy in the Lord.
A second false assumption about depression is that you’re not finding joy in the Lord. I have personally heard this one many times from individuals. They believe that since I’m down, crestfallen, and not interested in activities as I used to, I’m not finding joy in the Lord. This is false because a person can have joy in the Lord without feeling happy. Happiness and joy are not the same thing. The former depends on situations, whereas the latter is always present because of your relationship with Jesus.
In other words, you can have joy in the Lord without feeling happy emotions. Therefore, a person can still have joy in the Lord while battling depression. As I write this article today, I have been going through a time of depression; however, my joy in the Lord has not ceased. Never in any of my struggles with depression have I ever lost my joy in the Lord. Maybe you can relate to this if you struggle with depression.
Instead of telling those struggling with depression to find more joy in the Lord, meet them at their level. Ask them how to help or invite them to go on a walk. Don’t accuse them of not finding joy in the Lord or not knowing Jesus as their Savior and Lord. This can be harmful and cause them to distance themselves from others even more. Instead, extend love, care, and compassion even if you don’t understand what they are going through.
3. They are unmotivated.
A third false assumption about depression is that those who suffer from it are unmotivated. Depression is responsible for days when it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. Days that might not be as productive or lend the willingness to go out and see new things. It causes even the simplest of tasks to feel like climbing Mount Everest. Simple things are huge accomplishments for someone with depression. It’s easier to hide from the world than to get up and do the activities of daily living. Often the deep sorrow and pain of depression cause a feeling of paralysis as strength is drained from the bones of those who suffer from it.
Physical symptoms of depression occur when illness begins to feel overwhelming, not because of laziness or a lack of motivation. If you haven’t heard from or seen someone known to suffer from depression in a while, they may be having a difficult time. Try not to take their silence or absence personally. The person likely feels down, overwhelmed, or doesn’t feel like talking. Depression causes us to question our existence, ponder whether we matter, and wonder if the world would be better without us. Be extra kind, caring, and sensitive to others. We don’t always understand or see suffering.
4. They need to be more grateful.
Those with depression are not ungrateful, and assuming so is unfair and inaccurate. Depression is a complex mental health problem that needs to be treated with medication management and therapy. It is not cured by being more grateful, nor does someone get depression because they are not grateful. Those with depression are often very grateful but struggle with a mental health issue that can cause many problems. We can educate ourselves through research and study to find out how to help rather than make assumptions about depression and other mental health struggles.
Being there for others when they are struggling with depression is very helpful. Ghosting or ignoring them because we don’t understand or are intimidated by their problems will only worsen it. Those with depression can struggle with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts; therefore, it is best to be gentle with them and careful with our words. God wants us to care about others and genuinely help them in their need.
Depression may last a short time or become chronic. As someone who struggles with chronic depression, I have become more aware of false assumptions about my illness and can call them out when I see them. However, for those who are living with undiagnosed depression or only recently learned they have depression, we need to be much more careful with our words. Even those who have struggled for years with depression need the kindness and care of others.