Have people become desensitized to the word “depression”?

This will be a short blog post today. I just wanted to share my own thoughts that have surfaced around the loss of someone who has been meaningful to me in my own life.

To me Robin Williams’ death signifies a loss of hope. I love Robin Williams’ work. I’m numb, can’t sleep and various things keep setting me off crying again and I know it’s more than him being one of my all-time favorite actors. He touched my life (and many others) with a friend-like quality. I think it shows the interconnectivity of the human race that I could have never met the man and still feel such profound grief at his passing.  Robin Williams had a way of connecting with people.

His suicide has sparked many a negative comment about depression. I even had a conversation with an acquaintance who was going on about not being able to understand why someone would take their life. They simply did not understand why they would see suicide as a solution. And this is someone who’s worked with health care for almost two decades who I would have thought would’ve had more understanding).

And at that moment it struck me how the word “depression” has become so desensitized in our culture. And that goes for “clinical/severe depression” as well. I hear all too often people giving generic platitudes to someone suffering from depression – words that don’t help. If you’ve never suffered from depression (and especially chronic depression), then you don’t understand that it’s not a simple switch to feel better. This is not me suggesting you ignore a depressed friend, just please don’t be one of those people who says things like, ‘get over it.’

Many people expect those feeling depressed to simply be able to ‘shake it off’ – like they’re consciously making the choice to go through such pain. They expect you to just ‘take your drugs’ and feel better, but it’s often not as simple as that  People who don’t understand what depression feels like erroneously think you can just take a pill and magically feel better. For me, it took several years of study, and meeting brilliant mentors to relieve my depression. And I still have to stay diligent and stay on top of my crazy mind so I don’t spiral down into depression again. I am lucky – I have wise friends who consistently help each other through this human experience.

Maybe I feel hopeless from Robin Williams’ death, but I do hope that his suicide will raise awareness that depression should be taken more seriously outside the medical community. The word should not just be merely ‘glanced over’ when it comes up in conversation. In fact, last week, in an effort to help our staff increase their cultural awareness around mental diseases, the Cultural Competency Team had us do an exercise – to put eleven diseases in order of how they impact daily life.

This exercise was based on a Western study that ranked the disability weight for several diseases into 11 Disability Classes.  You might be surprised to learn that “Severe Depression” was rated in the same category as someone with high level spina bifida and Multiple sclerosis (10th). What’s in that top 11th category you ask?: Schizophrenia, Severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and Dementia. I want to make sure you read that right. Severe depression came in more impacting in a person’s daily life than “Stroke with Moderate Impairments”, Paraplegia and Severe Vision Disorder – to cap it off with Moderate Depression (7th) and Mild Depression (4th) also appearing. Wow. All three levels of depression made it onto a list of disabilities most impacting daily life. Proof “depression” is not a generic term that should be thrown around lightly.

Here is the link to the study if you are curious.


So what do you do when you find yourself depressed? Maybe you’ve found a psychologist who works for you, maybe you haven’t found that healer that suits your needs yet. Maybe you’ve found that special person, someone you trust to give you good advice and guide you on your path. If not, keep searching. I’ve personally found that the people I’ve surrounded myself with over the years have made all the difference. I would not be where I am today without those friends  – you know who you are.

If you are in that space where you are interested in resources, I am going to take this moment to share a couple books that have helped me through my own depression. I’m in no means telling everyone to go out and read these books – I’m just putting it out there in case they can help someone as they’ve helped me.

Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping [I STILL do the RF worksheets!]

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön [LOVE HER!!]

I want to be a resource for the people in my community. If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned here, or any of the resources, please message me. I’ve spent a long time studying and have would be happy to lend an ear.

If you feel depressed, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but there are resources out there. I want to spread these numbers, make sure people know they are available. If you or someone you know needs help please contact the National Suicide Helpline at 1-800-273-8255 or for young adult and teens to chat anonymously on line:www.remedylive.com and for a link of resources worldwide:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines!

I’m going to end this post with the beautiful mantra Namo Quan Shi Yin Pusa. (Quan Yin is the Bodhisattva of compassion and loving kindness).  If you are feeling in pain, or sad, or looking to feel more compassion for yourself and what you’re going through as a human, you may find listening to this and even chanting with it may bring you comfort. I know singing it myself last night helped me feel more peace.

Have you had other experiences with words people seem desensitized to? If you have ever suffered from depression, what tools have you found of use to you? Peace to you…

4 thoughts on “Have people become desensitized to the word “depression”?

  1. You aren’t alone. Today has been a struggle for me, too, and I find myself looking forward to going to bed, though it’s still early. Tomorrow I’ll be sure to get outside. I suffered severe depression most of my life and even still it’s always there, a shadow just offstage waiting for the opportunity to steal the show again. I shelved my book today because the part I was due to edit is a bit dark and I wasn’t prepared to go to that place now. Besides the devastating loss that Robin’s death is in my life there’s the reminder. Events such as this turn my mind back to when my depression was deep and once my thoughts start down that path it’s a difficult trek back home. I’ve ventured into meditation and yoga the last few months and they help with maintaining my peace. Too, I’m always practicing mindfulness and I try to exercise each day…usually walks. I’ve been within moments of the last place he found himself so his losing the battle isn’t just a headline to me, it’s a real threat that’s always waiting. So, this is where my mind was today. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer.

    1. Thank you for sharing! I like what you said about editing the part of your novel; sometimes I feel the same way – not able to go to those dark spaces to write certain scenes, however for some strange reason, the only thing I’ve felt like doing these last few days is write more on my ‘suicide novel’ that I am writing. (I was not feeling suicidal, just in such a sad place that I felt like surrounding myself with that story).

      I honor all the diligent work you do to find your own peace. It’s a constant practice, isn’t it?

  2. I sit here with tears running down my face. I’m not looking for pity. The sun is shining outside my etched glass front door. Birds are singing and crickets are chirping. The list you posted started the river of tears running. I have quadriplegia, arthritis, depression, and schizophrenia on my team as daily companions. They feed each other constantly.

What are your thoughts?