Clinical depression is a highly misunderstood and stigmatized illness that can happen to anyone. When the blues go beyond two weeks and you start exhibiting the signs of depression, it’s best to see a psychiatrist for evaluation. Unfortunately, many people who are depressed do not get the help they need because they are ashamed or do not understand their disease. “Untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide,” said Kevin Caruso, founder of suicide.org.
To treat depression and prevent suicide, the key is in early detection, proper treatment, and education. In the Philippines, many still believe in the myths surrounding depression. To bring light to mental health awareness, here are 10 common fallacies and their corresponding facts.
Fallacy: Depression is a sign of weakness, drama, and being KSP (kulang sa pansin).
Fact: Like cancer and heart disease, mental illness is an equal-opportunity illness. “It is a complex mental disorder that affects a person biologically, psychologically, and socially, and does not discriminate,” Alena Hall wrote in The Huffington Post. Depression can happen to a person of any age, educational attainment, religion, financial status, upbringing, and personality.
Fallacy: Depression and sadness are one and the same.
Fact: Sadness is a normal feeling you experience when something goes wrong, such as a breakup or getting fired. Clinical depression, on the other hand, is a deeper (but treatable) ailment that lingers for weeks to months, whether the person’s problem is realistic or perceived. According to Dr. Alice Rubenstein of Psych Central, what distinguishes typical melancholy or moodiness from clinical depression is a dramatic change in the person’s behavior and ability to function. “If [the signs] of depression last for more than two, certainly three weeks, you want to pay attention,” she warned.
Fallacy: Depression is not a real illness.
Fact: It is a serious medical condition that happens when there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, often triggered by traumatic events. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with clinical depression appear to have physical changes in their brain.
Fallacy: It’s all in your head.
Fact: Even if it’s categorized as a mental health ailment, depression manifests physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, unusual changes in appetite, chronic muscle aches, and chest pains.
Fallacy: A religious or spiritual person will never get depressed or suicidal.
Fact: “Religion and spirituality are not the absolute and only protective aspects that may prevent a person from ever developing clinical depression and/or possibly becoming suicidal,” said Dr. Rene Samaniego, M.D., a Filipino psychiatrist who specializes in psychosomatic medicine and cognitive-behavioral therapy. “For 27 years, I prayed every day of my life for God to heal my son’s mental illness,” shared Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren after his depressed son Matthew completed suicide in 2013. “It just didn’t make sense why this prayer was not being answered,” he said to his congregation. The pastor now stresses the importance of psychiatric help and strong community support to go with faith.
Fallacy: People who are depressed, bipolar, suicidal, or are undergoing psychiatric treatment are crazy.
Fact: People use the term “crazy” too loosely to describe or stigmatize someone undergoing psychiatric help, which is why many are forced to hide and be ashamed of their condition. In reality, unless they exhibit actual signs of psychosis, psychiatric patients are far from crazy. “Instead of ostracizing depressed people and those undergoing psychiatric treatment, what they need is compassion and empathy,” Dr. Samaniego advised.
Fallacy: Psychiatry is only for the rich (sakit mayaman) because they exaggerate their problems and can pay people to talk to them.
Fact: “Emotional and psychological pain and distress are universal experiences that are not limited to a specific social or financial class or status,” explained Dr. Samaniego.
Fallacy: Psychiatry is a waste of money because all you do is pay someone to talk to you and listen to your problems.
Fact: Psychiatry is an established field of medicine, just like oncology and pediatrics. “The combination of treatment approaches such as medication and psychotherapy has become the common mode in current practice, and thus, seeking psychiatric [consultation] and treatment involves a whole slew of approaches and goes way beyond just ‘talking’ to the psychiatrist,” explained Dr. Samaniego.
Fallacy: Depressed people just have to shake it off.
Fact: Clinically depressed people are often confused and can’t thoroughly explain their ordeals. Just like cancer and pneumonia, you can’t simply “shake off” this ailment. Forcing a depressed person to shake it off can actually make him/her feel worse.
Fallacy: Depression is just a state of mind.
Fact: Depression is an illness. “It’s all about the brain, plain and simple—the most vital and delicate organ in our body,” Monica Vest Wheeler wrote in Healthy Cells Magazine. “And too few individuals in the world fully comprehend that when our brain is broken, whether through internal or external forces, we are broken in some way. If we could only peer deep into the brain of someone living with depression and see what’s going on with all those cells, our world would be a much better, understanding, and compassionate place.”
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, are currently depressed, bipolar, or undergoing mental health treatments, there is nothing to be ashamed of. There is help and hope. Join the private Facebook group, SOS Philippines, to meet educated and open-minded Filipinos who understand your plight.
Crisis Line (for non-sectarian, non-judgmental telephone counseling):
Landline: (02) 893-7603
Globe Duo: 0917-8001123 / 0917-5067314
Sun Double Unlimited: 0922-8938944 / 0922-3468776
Center for Family Ministries (for spiritual counseling):
Landline: (02) 426-4289 to 92
Online resources for mental health and suicide prevention:
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, are currently depressed, bipolar, or undergoing mental health treatments, there is nothing to be ashamed of. There is help and hope. Join the private Facebook group, Survivors of Suicide – Philippines, to meet educated and open-minded Filipinos who understand your plight.