Does modern American culture take depression seriously?

Mae Mastin, staff writer

When it comes to the topic of how depression is treated in our society, most of us will readily agree that depression is a serious issue today. Where this agreement ends, however, is on the question of whether or not depression and other mental illnesses are paid enough attention in our society. Where some are convinced that depression is being taken seriously, others maintain that it should be given more thought. In my opinion, depression is not taken seriously enough in our culture.

Depression is viewed differently than physical illnesses in our society. A recent Do Now question by KQED, public media for Northern California, asked, “How is mental illness viewed in your community? How can schools better support teens who are depressed? How can mental health specialists factor culture into depression treatment?”

The responses, while varied, often stated that depression is not taken seriously in their communities. One responder, Caroline P, remarked, “Mental health is incredibly stigmatized in my community. Growing up with a physician as a father and a psychologist as a mother, I have seen physical health problems take priority in almost every situation.”

The view that depression is less serious than any physical illness is misinformed and incorrect. Depression is incredibly serious, as much as or, in some cases, more so than physical illness. Depression should be thought of as what it is: a sickness.

Depression is not publicized enough for people to understand it. While the issue is sometimes still not discussed in our culture, depression can also be generally misunderstood. One commenter to the Do Now, Paul, explained, “My experiences with school counselors and teachers were very positive, but many of my peers did not have an understanding of my situation.” This is a not uncommon.

When people do not understand depression, it can make it difficult for them to relate to those who are going through it. A Huffington Post article states, “Experts say that part of the problem when it comes to criticizing someone’s mental health is a lack of empathy and knowledge about the ailments.”

Lack of understanding breeds criticism and false concepts of mental illness. This can be remedied by letting people know what depression actually is. While depression is becoming a better known issue in our culture, talking more about the problem will assist greatly in the understanding of depression and other illnesses.

In conclusion, then, as suggested earlier, depression is often misunderstood and not paid enough attention in our society. However, when we talk about the issue and make an effort to understand it, we are changing the way our community views and deals with depression.

In the Joliet West community, those struggling with depression and other mental illnesses are urged to see their guidance counselor. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.