January 24, 2022
As Allison began talking to her mom about depression, she began to realize that her mom didn’t believe in depression. Allison stated that more teenagers are dealing with depression, and her mom began saying, “this generation is really sensitive,” “ they wouldn’t have depression if they focus on school or get a job.”
Her mom believes her daughters “shouldn’t” get depression because they have nothing to be depressed about. Sadly, this mindset is seen a lot– from youth to elders. There are many people that don’t believe in depression, so it makes helping people harder or sometimes too late.
Now the question is, why don’t people believe in depression?
Depression has affected many young adults. There have been many reasons why people don’t believe in depression from it being a trend, people thinking it’s just attention seeking, to people not accepting others who have depression because “there’s nothing they should be depressed about.”
In order to talk about depression— and the reasons some don’t believe it, we need to know the definition and understand what depression is. Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a medical illness that causes negative thoughts and feelings that affects the way you act, it leads to many emotional and physical problems, and it is treatable.
Since the 1900’s, there has been an increase in suicide in young adults from ages 15-24 in the U.S . And even though there has been small decreases from 2019-2020, for the past 2 decades, these suicide rates have been going higher. What’s causing all these suicide rates?
Well there’s no real answer for this, but there are many factors that can cause young adults to end up reaching this level of thought. Depression throughout the years has been a taboo topic, either at home or at school. It’s this taboo topic that some people may not care about or don’t know how to deal with it. It sometimes takes someone to talk about mental health when a suicide or suicide attempt occurs.
Litzi Gonzalez, who suffered from depression when she was 17, states, “During the time I got depressed, when I was diagnosed with depression, like in 2017-2018, three or four years ago. At that time depression wasn’t talked about at all. People and schools still don’t talk about it. And then we wonder why people end up killing themselves and then we wonder why people don’t talk. Sometimes we don’t open our stories and why? Because sometimes we feel like we will get judged.”
High schools should have a safe environment where students can talk about their mental health.
Students usually show signs of not having the best mental health and that leads to it reflecting on their school work. Enmanuel Guzman, a student from The Urban School of Collaborative Healthcare, states, “When it comes to school, it unmotivates me so much , to the point where my grades are not where they are supposed to be. In middle school when I wasn’t going through depression my grades were higher.”
While there can be so many students in a school, teachers spend the most time with students and should be trained to see signs of a mental illness or depression. Even if teachers aren’t trained to talk about mental illness, “Something as simple as this conversation could increase their drive to do well in school, while also giving them the space to talk about what’s bothering them.” Mental health needs to be taken seriously at school and it needs to be a school’s top priority.
Litzi, who had depression during high school, says, “Once at my school, doctors found out that’s when they started talking about it. That’s when they said ‘okay now we have a case of depression in school.’ They started to talk about it and I was like ‘wow, now they start talking about depression ?’ But then they just talk about it for two weeks and then that’s it. Everything is forgotten again. And we are back from the start. Back to not talking about it and forgetting about it. People don’t talk about mental health, ignore it and act like it’s nothing.”
Many students don’t feel like depression is talked about enough at school, and if it is, it’s forgotten already so quickly. A student from the iSchool says, “ I feel like mental health should be talked about more at school. Even if it’s during an advisory, it should be a topic that should be brought up. Many might find it helpful to know about depression, that way we can help others who are going through it.”
And another student from The Urban Assembly School for Collaborative HealthCare states, “ I do believe depression should be talked about more in school because it could help us learn the signs and symptoms of depression and we might be able to help ourselves or any peers identify this type of issue. Also it could help students see that they have a support system at school and that if they are going through something they shouldn’t go through it alone. Talking about mental health more often helps create a safe environment for students to be more open.”
Depression– or mental health in general- should be something to talk about, as it’s educating not only students, but teachers and families. Jennifer Major, a licensed social worker, says, “I think that if we talk about it enough in school and normalize it enough in school then students will have the language to be able to bring it home to their parents. And have open and honest conversations at home, to help them understand what depression is.”
Home should be the place where you get the most support and help. Education about depression is the best way you can help a loved one or someone you know that has depression. A mom that went through many traumatic experiences, and she believed that this generation has become weak. While she does believe that depression is a real disorder, she states that it’s something that you can get over with right away. She states, “if they have a problem but they should get distracted and start thinking ‘ Oh let me go work” or “ let me start selling things” or “ I’ll start studying” they will then forget about depression but since they don’t have a lot of capacity to think a lot, all they do is think about their problem.’ She claims that not being distracted and just thinking about the negative of your life will lead you to having depression.
Many adults believe that it’s something that can just go away. Ms. Major says, “I think that the biggest thing that I see is that parents don’t believe in it because they feel like they provide a good enough life for you. So you as a person could have had a very traumatic experience and led to depression, doesn’t mean that your child’s experience has to be equally or more traumatic for it to cause depression. So a lot of parents feel like their children’s experiences aren’t as bad so therefore they shouldn’t feel depressed.”
Some adults don’t believe in depression because of the times that they grew up in. An anonymous source says, “ When I found out I had depression, my parents had a hard time understanding. They felt like I had no reason to be depressed and while I can’t explain to them why I do, I wish they could understand how I feel so they can support me more. But I think it has to do with the way they grew up. My mom tells me that depression wasn’t seen when she grew up because ‘no one has time for that’, coming from a Hispanic culture, they were really busy as kids and she tells me she never had time to get sad or think because she had a lot of things to do at home. And I think she expects me to get over my depression.”
While generation and cultural background affects understanding depression, this can be a big problem since many people won’t feel understood or seek help. Michelle Benavides, a child therapist, says, “A little bit of the culture but also because in the past, they were raised differently. Like your mom, my mom, they were raised in a different world where they struggle with things like not having water, electricity, food and having to sell things to make money. If I tell my mom ‘I’m depressed’, she won’t even think it’s a thing she’ll probably say ‘so what’, it’s not a big deal.’ She states that generations before, depression wasn’t labeled and even if it was, not one really talked about it. Which brings back to the mom that states that depression is something you can get over. Many people think others are ‘crazy’ or seen as an ‘ill crazy’ person, when they have a mental illness. Lack of education is what causes many people to not understand what depression really is.
Then there’s this other factor of people not believing someone has depression because of it being something trendy in today’s generation. Many people take depression and suicide as a joke and something they would want.
Throughout quarantine, many trends have been made to make depression look like something fun. Many trends like cutting or dying your hair have been made. Scrolling through Tik Tok and seeing: I had a mental breakdown so I decided to cut my hair or get a tattoo. Everyone began labeling themselves with mental illnesses and depression even if they didn’t because many wanted to have the label of being “depressed.”
And it’s sad to think teenagers want to be labeled with depression and even more heartbreaking because if someone is really going through depression, it won’t be taken seriously since it’s taken as a “lifestyle” everyone wants.
An anonymous source states, “A lot of people, especially teens, were depressed and sad during quarantine, but I think a lot of people weaponized the title of depression.” And Enmanuel states, “I feel like in our generation, being depressed is ‘trendy’ a ‘lifestyle’ but with me it was an actual thing, an actual diagnosis and it wasn’t like everyone was portraying it. It was different so I felt like I couldn’t really speak to anybody because I told them I was depressed but it was a trend so they didn’t really take it seriously.”
If teens feel like their peers won’t take them seriously, then it should be a concern to everyone because it will make many have to keep it to themselves so they wouldn’t be called an “attention seeker.”
Litzi states, “I noticed that on Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and whatever this generation uses now—they’re like ‘I’m sad’ and then say they have depression right away. And no, sometimes it’s not depression. Depression is something you don’t show off in social media, it’s not something you would post, because when I was going through depression, I didn’t even think about social media nor did I think of anything else. Some people don’t understand what depression really is and they will understand until they actually go through it and go to the hospital and they diagnose you with depression.”
Another anonymous source states, “because, I feel like it’s become sort of like a token mental illness thing, and it’s become sort of cute and quirky, but it’s really not. It’s a really ugly and difficult disorder to live with. So I really appreciated it, like when you said in the form, have you been medically diagnosed with depression because some people will be like ‘yeah I’m depressed or whatever’ but no, there’s a difference between being sad and having depression.”
Overall, these people who have depression or had depression all have felt that the media is portraying depression as something it’s not. This makes many young people not understand what depression really is and then causes many not believe it. Young adults not having the right education about depression is something that can cause a lot of harm in society to the point that depression will not be taken seriously, and it be forgotten that it’s an actual illness that many people actually go through.
Overall, the main reason people don’t believe in depression is because of lack of education. Since the 18000’s —of it being a taboo topic to now teens wanting to be labeled as depressed, the lack of education has been the main problem for people to really understand depression. Educating people about depression starting with schools can help many understand what depression is and how to help someone.
While social media enables people to communicate, the media shouldn’t be violating or making people not want to talk about depression without being seen as if they want to be a part of this trend. For the same reason social media is a big part of life today, there has also been research that social media has caused many teens to have low self-esteem. The internet and social media tends to be the place where we all get our information and news from, which can be great, sometimes. The internet tends to have this bubble they keep you in, which they only show you things you would want to see. Which can lead you to only see and hear one side of a story: in this case seeing the false side of depression.
The internet still tends to be the most toxic place. Everyone is just behind a screen and projecting someone they are not. It can be easy to run away from certain things online and many people take advantage of that to harm others. The internet and social media has always been a toxic place, where harassment is shown in many different ways. Clicking the comment section of certain posts can lead to many emotions. Many are getting harassed and bullied online. Many people also do a lot of comparison online, as many like to show their “perfect life.” On social media, many tend to portray someone which they are not, which makes many compare themselves.
Suicide has been one of the top causes of death through decades. Throughout generations, depression has been a topic that is not talked about nor taken seriously, and if we want to lower the curve of suicide then we should start with taking metal health more seriously. Schools are not giving the right education or talking about mental illness at all.
Allison hopes that she can make her mom have a different mindset on how she sees depression and hopes with the right education she will give her mom the right facts about depression.
Overall, if someone doesn’t understand mental illness, it all just goes to lack of education. Education and awareness for depression is the best solution to help those that don’t understand it yet. Having to understand depression first is the main goal to make others believe it as well. Knowledge is the main power now.
Sometimes it takes someone to commit suicide to talk about depression and mental health. Why does it have to lead this far for us to make a change?