Depression: a darkness we do not talk about

October is mental health awareness month. Stock image.

Mental health is often misrepresented and stigmatised, particularly when uninformed people start offering unsolicited advice or so called cures they discovered while they were “researching” on the internet.

October is mental health month around the world, where efforts are made to educate people about the seriousness and prevalence of mental health issues. People suffering from depression, bipolar disease, schizophrenia and other conditions are not faking, they are not trying to get attention and they cannot just ‘get over it.’ These are real, biological conditions – as real as cancer but more misunderstood.

So, what are some of the more common misconceptions and conclusions people jump to regarding this issue?

Just snap out of it!

“You should start exercising… You should eat healthier… You should try to think more positive thoughts…” People suffering from conditions such as depression get told things like this all the time, and it does not help – in fact, you are making things worse.

Let us get something straight: depression is not a state of mind, it is a disease. You may as well tell someone with tuberculosis to ‘think more positive thoughts.’ Depression can be brought on by traumatic experiences such as losing a loved one, but it can also be a physical condition where there is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

There is no key identifying factor and there is no one way to treat depression. Some people find solace in support groups, others need to drastically change their situations by getting a new job or moving away, others need to take anti-depressants and many people will need a combination of these and other methods to combat the disease.

A basic rule of thumb is: if you do not have a medical or psychiatric degree, keep your opinions on treatment to yourself!

But he/she does not seem depressed.

A particularly troubling trend is that people think they can spot others who suffer from mental illnesses. No you cannot.

Being rich, beautiful, young, successful, coming from a loving family and more is no guarantee against mental illness. People suffering from depression learn how to hide it very effectively, both because of the stigma and shame attached to it and because dealing with your reaction to it is just more depressing.

The perfect example was Chester Bennington, the front man of the popular band Linkin Park. Bennington had everything – he was world famous, uber rich, respected in his field, had a loving family and good friends. He hung himself in July, nobody saw it coming.

Chester Bennington with his family just weeks before he killed himself.


It only happens to other people.

Depression and suicide rates continue to climb every year and it is more common than you think. All it takes is one traumatic event – whether it be emotional, psychological or physical – to send you into a spiral of despair.

It can effect anyone at any time – and being rich or successful means nothing.


Drugs and depression often go hand-in-hand. Many people assume that drug addiction leads to depression. This can be the case as addiction is debilitating in its own right, but more often substance abuse is a symptom of something else.

People who are depressed look for ways to escape their pain and drugs are one of the most common ways they try it. So before you leap to the conclusion that someone is depressed because they are a drug addict, ask yourself if it is not the other way around.

The Against Drugs and Child Abuse group in Ballito offers counseling for those with substance abuse issues. If you need help, call them today on 082 555 4492.

Drug addiction can be a symptom of depression. Stock image.

Do not judge.

Do not judge people until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Scoffing at a depressed person’s lack of motivation or misery is like laughing at a quadriplegic because they cannot run the 100m dash. Instead, offer support and understanding, remember that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with these people and that you likely have friends or family that you never realised had suicidal thoughts.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or is having suicidal thoughts, you do not have to endure the agony alone.

The South African Depression and Anxiety  Group has a toll-free suicide hotline that runs 24 hours a day. If you find yourself in that dark place with no more options and it feels like the current is dragging you under, call 0800 567 567 now!



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Allan Troskie

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