Viewpoint: Remove depression’s social stigma

By Mashaal Hashmi

There is a long history of depression and other mental illness happening to those who are either in college or just graduated from college.

The feelings of emptiness, the lack of ambition or direction in life, the loss of interest in hobbies or religion­ — all of these things can lead to mental instability or illness.

It is important to be conscious of this fact, to be aware of depression and other disorders and draw more attention to this problem.

The social stigma of mental illness, awareness and discussion of these situations is getting much better since our parents’ and grandparents’ time.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are no longer considered “fake scientists,” and we realize that mental illnesses are more than just “a phase” or “hormones.” The science of the brain, with its functions and diseases, is much more important to anatomy now, which makes these problems more diagnosable.

However, even despite all these advances in science and in our social concepts of mental illnesses, there is still a major gap in our understanding and acceptance of those who are suffering from depression and other disorders.

Many people view depression as something that is for the weak-minded or something that is out of our range of everyday emotions.

Unless you have depression or a mental disorder, you can’t really understand how someone can go through it.

Without experiencing the mourning or some sort of loss, we can’t fully sympathize with people who struggle through these moments.

We watch movies and read books about it, and we study it in our psych and sociology classes, even in biology or anatomy.

We can maybe wrap our minds around the scientific side, or maybe we can see how at least minor depression happens. When something catastrophic happens, it’s understandable that the person would feel anxiety or depression.

But what about when nothing has happened? What about when everything is fine in life?

They’re in school, have boyfriends or girlfriends and are getting good grades. They have friends and teammates, groups we’re a part of. Yet they’re still struggling with depression and loneliness. We can’t understand what that feels like, how it can happen.

The first step to awareness actually doesn’t come from researching depression or mental illness disorders.

It comes from accepting that it can happen, accepting that some people can feel that way. That’s all they ask of us.
They don’t ask that we keep telling them, “Everything’s going to be OK. You’ll be fine.” All they need at first is just that we accept them.

They’re not a different or broken species. They are not cast-offs or aliens from our society.

They are just like us, and the first step to making yourself someone they can talk to is accepting them.

We need to understand that depression isn’t a failure and that it’s not something to be hidden in the closet and something to be afraid of.

It’s OK to talk about it and always OK to ask for help.

Mashaal Hashmi is a senior English major from Fort Worth. She is a copy editor and assistant Web editor for the Lariat.