A few months ago at school, I was asked to play football for the school team. Honestly, I have no clue why. But there was an inter-school match, a girls team and a boys team, and I was playing the position of the striker. At some point during the game, I don't quite remember when, someone chipped the ball directly to me whilst I was standing arguably adjacent to the goal. I remember thinking, this was my moment. The game was at its epitome of suspense, but, unfortunately, and I hate to break this to you, it was anticlimactic-- to say the least. I fell flat on my face while trying to dribble the ball. No jokes, literally. Flat on my face. I had to be rushed to the school doctor, while all my friends crowded around me trying to make sure I was okay.
This got me thinking.. If we've normalised going to the doctor when we're physically hurt, without any hesitation to make sure we're okay, why is going to a psychologist or a psychiatrist still stigmatised? Why is having a physical scar considered a symbol of strength, while mental difficulties are so quickly equated to 'being a sign of weakness'?
'I failed my math test bro I'm depressed.' 'Not today man, my parents grounded me, I'm too depressed.' 'Don’t ask dude I'm literally depressed.' Considering we use the aforementioned phrases, in daily interactions, like they mean nothing.. I thought it would be of great pertinence and relevance, to educate ourselves a little more on what depression really entails, how we misconstrue and shrug off common symptoms and the best ways to improve our mental health.
Surprisingly the official connotation of this overly used word is far from what we truly mean whilst using it in everyday conversation. The Oxford Learners dictionary defines depression as 'a medical condition in which a person feels very sad and anxious and often has physical symptoms such as being unable to sleep, etc.' Now, in my opinion, this 'definition' can be extremely misleading and evasive, especially to teenagers who can easily be influenced. Depression is not like a physical disorder, its not an open and close case. It varies greatly from person to person: For some, they may have all the symptoms of depression and that still may not be the condition they are suffering from. For others; they might have none of the symptoms and could still be suffering from depression. Keeping that in mind, it is important to be aware of a few of many symptoms of depression regardless:
Feeling of worthlessness
Pessimism and despondence
Lack of appetite
Do you see now why the internet is not an accurate source of diagnosis? At some point in our lives, we all go through at least half of the above mentioned-- appetite loss, hopelessness, fatigue.. Does this mean we're depressed? NO. It means we're human. There lies a deep rooted disparity between the unspecific and falsifiable 'depression quizzes' available on the internet and a real diagnosis provided by a certified professional. So the question arises: To what extent is the exposure provided to teenagers today actually beneficial to their mental state of mind?
My answer, and yours may completely vary, is not so much. The exposure we have to the internet today, albeit very useful in other aspects, has proven repeatedly to be detrimental to our mental health. Lets look at this way-- Joe is a teenager. He's around 16 years old and he's really upset because he failed his maths test. He feels useless, this is the 10th test in a row he's failed despite spending hours preparing. He goes over to the internet and searches 'why can't I do anything right?' The response, is a bunch of tabs opening up stating the following 'Are you depressed? Take this quiz to find out.' 'Symptoms of depression- feeling hopeless.' 'How to get over depression and learn to love yourself.' Now while I'm sure all these pages mean well; they mean to keep people aware and informed of a possible condition they have. They aim to normalize mental illnesses, as they should. Simultaneously, however, they cloud your judgement. They make you believe you have an illness, regardless of whether you actually do or not. They fog your vision and begin to make you overthink everything. They make you begin doubting yourself, and your own courage. Most importantly, however, is that they make you subconsciously self-diagnose yourself. I may not be an expert, but I think it’s safe to say, that's not healthy.
On a more positive note, there are a bunch of things you can do to remain happier and more optimistic. There are always things you can do to help yourself. Mustering up the courage to ask for help- that’s a symbol of strength, not a sign of weakness. Staying true to yourself no matter what, that’s a symbol of strength. Stopping when you know it's getting too much for you, that’s a symbol of strength. Loving yourself, respecting yourself, and appreciating yourself- Those are symbols are strength. I think what I'm getting at is the fact that we're all symbols of strength, we always have been and we always will be. All we have to do is believe.
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way, shape or form a professional in this matter, however my blog post has been fact checked by one. All of the aforementioned points, are solely opinion-based, and may vary from person to person. This blog serves mainly to shed light and raise awareness on the common misconceptions of depression.