I suffer from depression. It’s no different than diabetes or high blood pressure in that I cannot simply wish it away. It’s a condition that, for me, is treatable and manageable with lifestyle choices and, yes, medication. Everyone is different, but after decades of struggle, I’ve finally found the combination that works best for me.
I cannot imagine telling a type 1 diabetic, “you don’t need medication,” but for people with mental illness, we’re told this all the time.
The stigma attached to mental illness is a dangerous one. While not all people with depression need to be on medication, many do, and only the patient and their doctor can make that fully informed decision. Do some doctors simply push psychotropic drugs on people as a quick fix? Of course, they do. But when you say, “you don’t need a pill,” you’re reinforcing to the struggling person that there is something wrong with taking medications that have proved, for many, to be not only life changing but life saving.
I don’t care if you think all mental illness is spiritual in nature. I don’t care if you think you can fix it with dietary supplements. I don’t care if you think it’s hormone related. I don’t care what you’ve heard from some anti big pharma advocate at 2am on Coast-to-Coast. While there may be an element of truth in all these things, people who struggle with mental illness should feel confident to address their condition with their doctor without unqualified (though well meaning) people influencing the prognosis and proposed course of action.
I don’t advocate blindly following doctors, but if you opine on the mental health needs of a person without having a comprehensive understanding of both their family and personal history—as well as the medical knowledge required to appropriately address the complexities of the human mind—please understand that you are wading into dangerous waters.
We don’t tell cancer patients they don’t need chemo or radiation. Discouraging people with mental illness from pursuing medical help is every bit as irresponsible, and the outcome, in some cases, can be just as deadly.
People with depression don’t need your advice or judgement; they need your love and availability.
Thanks, in advance, for spreading the word.