Dismantle Depression Stigma | Teen Ink

Dismantle Depression Stigma

September 6, 2022
By yuhengwang SILVER, Beijing, Other
yuhengwang SILVER, Beijing, Other
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

On a Sunday afternoon, I was rushing to a birthday party. Edgar phoned: “I feel depressed. Could you come to me right now?” “Not now,” I quickly responded. “I will stop by this evening. Just cheer up, buddy!” In the evening, I received a shocking news: in his depressed state, Edgar had committed suicide!

My friend frequently recounts this devastating story as a part of his efforts to call attention to depression. While his efforts are laudable, they are hampered by inadequacy. Success in combating the depression plague requires us to go beyond the surface and confront the underlying issue: depression stigma.    

Depression stigma has two dimensions. The first is public stigma. Inadequate understanding leads to people’s discriminatory attitudes and behaviors toward depression. Depression occurs when neurotransmitters go awry. One popular misunderstanding is to associate depression as mere sadness, with the assumption that an individual can overcome it with sheer willpower. Since everyone undergoes sadness, so the thinking goes, publicly demonstrating feelings of depression shows only a weak-willed, and vulnerable individual. “It’s the new fashion to say you’ve got depression.” “Cheer up” epitomizes this classic placebo and camouflages the underlying dismissive psychology. On the other end of the spectrum is dangerousness. These people acknowledge the neurological malfunctioning of a depressive mind, but regard it as a potential threat, and thus adopt social distance and deliberate avoidance.

The other dimension is self-stigma. A stigmatized individual perceives and internalizes public stigma and devalues his self. The worst part about depression is that “people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” Prevalent stigma, “like a mosquito we keep swatting away that keeps coming back to bite us,” constitutes a primary barrier to help-seeking behavior.

Stigma generates a vicious circle. “Stigma translates into so many issues, including people’s reluctance to seek care, our shortage of mental health professionals, and the U.S.’ unwillingness to invest resources into the mental health sector.” Globally, an estimated 3.8% of the population, or approximately “280 million people in the world” have depression. The outbreak of Covid-19 aggravated the situation and raised the American depression percentage from “27.8% in 2020 to 32.8% in 2021.” Economically, depression and anxiety cost “1 trillion [US$] per year in lost productivity.” One bit of positive news, however, is that every dollar spent on the treatment will have “a return of US$ 4 in improved health and productivity.”

Without dismantling the stigma surrounding depression, effective results will elude us. If you suffer from depression, you should not feel shamed because the black dog has hijacked your life. Talk to your trusted friends. If you don’t, educate yourself and others on depression. Let’s work together to restore the life hijacked from so many suffering individuals.


Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash


Works Cited

Barney, Lisa, et al. “Exploring the Nature of Stigmatising Beliefs About Depression and Help-seeking.” BMC Public Health. 20 Feb. 2009.

Cohen, Roger. “Across the World, Covid Anxiety and Depression Take Hold.” The New York Times. 13 Dec. 2021.

“Depression.” World Health Organization. 13 Sept. 2021.

Ettman, Catherine K, et al. “Persistent Depressive Symptoms During COVID-19.” The Lancet Reginal Health. 4 Oct. 2021.

Toler, April. “Stigma Surrounding Depression Drops for First Time in U.S., But Increases for Other Mental Illnesses.” News at IU Bloomington. 21 Dec. 2021.

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