1. People who are depressed are sad all the time.
This may be the most common misconception of them all. As a society, we fail in nearly every vein in the mental health department. We don’t talk about it enough, we don’t provide enough resources, and we pay attention to neither the signifiers nor the worst possible outcomes. When depression does appear in TV, in movies, or on our computer screens it is often depicted in the same 2-dimensional way — gray skies, a messy room, with depressed character laying face down on his or her bed.
We as an audience see only one part of depression. We rarely see that same depressed person smiling, laughing, and perhaps even making plans with friends,. We hardly ever see this depressed person going to work, paying bills, or just — plain and simple — living his or her life. The flashes or waves of depression is what’s most often left out when society or the entertainment business attempts to depict depression.
Depression is more than crying yourself to sleep at night. But most people don’t understand this, which can make living with depression even more difficult. Family and friends often don’t see anything besides the extreme representations of depression, and therefore choose to believe that, when someone doesn’t show signs of this, they’re not truly depressed. To be depressed and not be taken seriously can cause one to be caught in a permanent and desperate state of seeking validation. Sometimes all anyone needs is for others to know what they’re going through so they can feel even minimally less alone.
2. People who are depressed just need love.
Despite the countless, and subtly positive pop culture depictions of the brooding man or woman, being depressed is not, and should not, be a turn-on. Depression does not indicate a level of deep emotional depth, nor does it hint that a person is a bit more complicated than everyone else. Depression is a seemingly never-ending struggle with one’s own existence, and is not something that can be solved with true love’s kiss or even the love of a best friend.
As hard as it is to accept, there is not always an immediate solution to an individual’s depression. More often than not, people have to work things out on their own. But from the moment our formal education begins, we’re taught that there’s always an answer, whether it follows a formula or whether it’s something we make up ourselves. Problem. Solution. Problem. Solution. It weighs heavy on the conscience when people feel like they have to stomach the reality that there’s nothing that they can do besides lend their love and ear when it’s needed. Those individuals can try to take solace in the fact that the pain they feel is probably nowhere near the depression that their friend feels.
3. People who are depressed just need to talk about it.
Whenever we have problems, we’re encouraged to talk them out. And while this solution may prove effective for the drama and lows of modern-day living (because holding stuff in never helps), it’s not always helpful to individuals with depression. Sometimes talking about it with others can make the situation far worse, if, perhaps, the suffering person were to feel embarrassed, overwhelmed, or judged. Depression is a deeply sensitive and difficult topic, and while it is important that it remains a relevant topic in society, that does not necessarily mean that those with depression should be nudged to talk about how they feel. The talking on their end should be done only when they feel comfortable.
As a society it is our job to make sure that depression is not a taboo topic, and that any stigma attached to it (and all mental illnesses) are wiped clean. Essentially we are providing a safe space. Whether your partner, friend, or family member decides to use that space is (rightfully) up to them.