As awareness increases, stigmas do not decrease

October 2, 2017

by Grace Kim LA Center for Enriched Studies 11th grade

There has a been a recent rise in mental health awareness, but unfortunately, the stigma around many mental diseases still persists. Depression in particular has a negative connotation even if it is one of the more common mental disorders. As many people may know, it is a condition where a person feels unmotivated, sad, hopeless, and generally uninterested in life, interfering with daily life. Many people associate depression with weakness, lack of self-control, and other negative traits despite it being an illness that is as serious as a physical illness.

Depression can be caused by many things, such as major events, deaths of a loved one, a romantic breakup, conflicts, abuse, substance abuse, some medications, and genetics. ?Many people think that depression is simply feeling sad over something bad that happened, but there are actual chemical reactions in the brain that are affected. Studies suggest that depression is caused by shrinking of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that works with memory and emotion. It tends to be much smaller in people with depression, even smaller in those that have had depression for a longer period of time. Scientists believe that the hippocampus is smaller because stress hormones prevent the nerve cells in the brain from growing.

Despite the many studies conducted and explanations offered for depression, many people don’t quite understand that it requires treatment just like any other illness. Stigma is possibly the biggest obstacle to mental health care, and although it has lessened compared to before, people still are close-minded about mental illnesses. Even some doctors don’t consider depression as important as other diseases, which often leads to half hearted or improper treatment.

This stigma makes it much more difficult for people with depression to reach out to family, friends, and professionals because they fear the judgement they may receive. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 35.3% of depressed people look for help from a mental health professional. Leaving depression untreated is dangerous because it often leads to more severe depression, other medical conditions, and thoughts of suicide.

Stereotypes and stigmas are very hard to end, but the only practical way to improve society’s perspective on people with mental disorders is to raise awareness, more specifically helping people understand that depression isn’t easy or a choice, but a serious issue. Perhaps even more important, health care professionals need to be educated to not be biased when treating mentally ill patients. This way, the bettering of treatment towards people with mental disorders continues on an upward trend.

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