Though depression is a hot topic, if you experience depression, you should never feel pressured to share it publicly. Depression isn't one-size fits all. We each experience it and heal differently.

Depression is a hot-button topic these days, and for good reason. We’re finally realizing that the only way to stop people from feeling ashamed about being depressed, and the only way to stop employers and family members and friends from dealing poorly with someone’s depression, is to have an open dialogue about it.

Sometimes the discussion dies down, and then something happens to jolt it back to the forefront of people’s minds. Take Robin Williams’ death, a stark reminder that sometimes people who give incredible amounts of joy to others struggle to do the same for themselves.

Some people, used to handling things themselves, don’t share the fact that they’re depressed with anyone and never receive the help and support they need. 

Others share it with a select few, terrified with every conversation that someone will “out” them and they’ll be ostracized by those who don’t understand the depths and nuances of depression.  They may fear losing a scholarship, a job, a friendship, a partner.

Or maybe they see depression as a weakness, a flaw in their character.  These beautiful, hurting people, and so many more, are the reason we need to be having these conversations about what depression is, what it looks like, and how to live with it and through it.

They are the reason we desperately need to remove the negative stigma surrounding depression.

But in doing that, we also need to remember that depression manifests differently in each person, and that each person’s process to work through their depression is going to be just as different. The most important thing, what we have to remember above all else, is that the first and highest priority is getting help.

If someone is getting help for their depression, be it through medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, exercise, nutrition, a combination of some or all of these things (and many other possibilities besides), that is the only thing that should be mandatory — the only thing that we should be insisting people do.

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After that?  It’s up to them.  It has to be, or we’re telling them that it’s not okay to make a choice about how they handle things, that it’s not their call.  We’re attempting to take away what might be the only tiny bit of control they feel they have.

People who are depressed are still people.  They could be extroverted or introverted.  They could fall anywhere along the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory.  They could be a 25-year-old man in grad school or a 60-year-old woman figuring out life after retirement.

One person tells their story on YouTube. Another tells their spouse at the kitchen table. Someone else confides in a therapist. A twenty-something opens up anonymously on a forum. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

As individual as they are, so long as they’re getting help somehow, their right to decide who they tell about their depression and when they tell people and how they tell them must remain intact.

No Pressure, Without the Stigma

The beautiful thing about this day and age is that there are more options available to people who need help, and less of a stigma attached to getting that help, although there’s still more work to be done in that area.

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We also have to keep the individual in mind, and there’s a few ways we can do that:

1. Remove the stigma. Don’t intimate across the board that if you don’t open up about your depression, you’re contributing to the negative stigma attached to it. We need to respect an individual’s right to privacy and to choose their own path through an incredibly trying experience.

2. Don’t push them. On a more personal level, if you know someone who is suffering from depression but has only told a few select people, don’t try and badger them into opening up to anyone else. They don’t need that pressure.

3. Don’t pressure them to open up to you. If you think, but don’t know for sure that a friend is depressed, be there for them — don’t try and force them into telling you. Saying things like, “Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong? You can trust me!” will likely only make them feel upset or guilty, and you need to be a positive light in their life, not a Negative Nancy.

4. Let them put themselves first. If you are depressed and feeling pressure, either from people close to you or society as a whole, to tell all, give yourself permission to put yourself first. So long as you’re getting the care and love that you need, and those providing it for you are taking care of themselves, as well, there’s no need to tell anyone else unless you want to.

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Depression is not an easy topic.  It’s complex, it’s scary, it plunges us into depths we might prefer stay hidden. However, the more we come to appreciate this complexity and the individual experience of it, the closer we’ll be to a world where there is truly no stigma surrounding depression.

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