The Stigma Around Depression: Jordan Milligan

Aug 16, 2021

Meet my brother, Jordan! I am so proud of him for being open in sharing his journey with depression. Our family has learned so much about depression and overall mental health in the past few years. If you know someone that struggles with depression or a mental illness, please take into consideration Jordan's advice that he shares in the blog today.

Coming from someone who has struggled with depression, these are the do's and don'ts that he would tell you to look out for. If you yourself think you may struggle with depression or a mental illness, don't be afraid to seek help. Depression is not a sign of weakness.

Go to someone that you trust and tell them about it. I promise you a weight will be lifted off your shoulders. Don't keep this just to yourself it's not worth it. There are people around you that love you and want to help you through this. Whether that be through therapy, medication, or both. Seek help and seek God.

The Stigma Around Depression

A year and a half ago I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I also went undiagnosed for two years before that. There is a large number of misconceptions and myths surrounding depression and other mental health conditions.

I’ll discuss some of these and how we can efficiently and effectively help ourselves and others who have difficulties with mental health. Specifically with depression. I’ll also discuss the number one thing to do to help anybody with a problem, even ones not related to depression.

#1 Don't: One of the first things you might want to do if someone were to approach you and say they are depressed is give advice. Do your best to not follow this urge. While well-meaning, advice when it is not asked for can actually make somebody feel worse. Almost as if you are talking down to them and trying to fix them.

Instead, take time to really listen to what they have to say. Even repeat it back to them to make sure you understand. I personally received a lot of advice from my family after I had been diagnosed, it always made me feel worse because I felt like they weren’t listening. I also felt like they thought I was too stupid to fix the problem myself. Even well-meaning words can have a negative impact.

#2 Don't: Another important thing to remember when dealing with somebody with depression is that most of the time it really isn’t their fault. Depression comes from a variety of factors we don’t fully understand yet, but we do know that a history of depression in your family, biological imbalances, trauma, current situations, and a host of other factors can contribute to someone being depressed. So often it isn’t just because someone isn’t trying or not getting enough exercise. They have a serious problem they can’t get rid of on their own, and they are asking you for your help.

#3 Don't: The last thing to remember is that it doesn’t go away easily. Recovering from depression is a very difficult and long journey. For some people a quick solution does work, however, this is often the minority. For most, it can take months or even years of consistent therapy and or medication.

DO: So after that list of don’t do this, this is wrong, and so on. What can we do? One word: Validate. Validation is expressing to somebody else that their emotions make sense due to the current circumstances. It’s as simple as that. Yet it has a very powerful effect. It’s observed that validation can actually decrease the very emotion we are validating. Here’s an example.

If you said,
“I’ve just been feeling really down since my dad died ten months ago. I feel like I should be moving on, but I can’t.”

Then I could say something like,
“Wow, that sounds really rough, losing someone that close it you is not easy. You don’t need to force yourself to move on. It’s normal to still feel that way.”

Acknowledge the emotions and saying they make sense can ease others suffering.

The inverse can also be true. I’m sure we’ve all felt invalidated before. Going back to that example, invalidation could look like.

“I know your dad died, but it’s almost been a year. Everyone else has moved on. Why can’t you?”

Ouch. See how it makes you feel like what you are feeling is wrong. In the same way that validation eases the emotions, invalidation actually makes you feel worse.

All in all the best we can do is be there for someone and listen to them. If you feel like you yourself need help, please start a conversation with someone you trust. Ask for help, and things will get better. No feeling is final, and we can make a life worth living.

- Jordan Milligan

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