Five myths about depression we need to put a stop to

Today, October 10, is officially World Mental Health Day. While it’s great to have one day a year dedicated to raising awareness, the mental health conversation is one that we should be having every day.

The stigma and confusion surrounding the issue of depression make it a difficult thing to come to terms with – not only for sufferers, but for their friends and family too.

For the day that’s in it, here are five common myths about depression that we all need to stop believing. The sooner we can accept that our mental health is just as significant as our physical health, the better.

1. Being depressed is the same thing as being sad
Yes, an overwhelming feeling of sadness is a very common symptom of depression. But that’s as far as the similarities go. Sadness is something that comes and goes and can often be related to events in our daily life. Depression is an ongoing condition that can’t just fade away on its own.

2. Depression is not an illness
Just because symptoms can vary or there is no one cure-all magic potion doesn’t mean that depression is not a sickness or a disease. The factors causing depression are outside of our control and can affect sufferers on every level – mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s not just a state of mind. Insisting that it is only serves to make people with depression feel that their struggle is insignificant.

3. It’s always caused by a sad or traumatic incident in our life
Situations like bereavements, heartbreak, and times of great change can leave even the most emotionally healthy person feeling vulnerable, low and empty. However while bouts of depression can be triggered by certain events, true depression will generally recur frequently, with symptoms lasting at least two weeks each time.

4. It’s all in your head
Depression can manifest itself in countless physical ways; lack of appetite, insomnia, even muscle aches and chest pains. Telling someone to “stay positive” or “cheer up” is not the answer – it only drives home the myth that depression is something that has a quick and easy fix.

5. Talking will make it worse
Yes, opening up about depression or broaching the subject with someone you suspect may be suffering can be awkward or uncomfortable. The sufferer may not respond well or even want to talk about it for fear of burdening others with their problems. That does not mean that talking about depression is a bad idea – it’s the only way to get rid of the stigma surrounding the issue. Proactive, constructive and positive conversations can make all the difference.