#2 What are People Assuming?

For my topic I finally decided on the stigmas against youth who struggle with depression. This is a topic that very recently came into the mainstream and is now being addressed as one of our nation’s most terrifying threats. Because of how confusing situations like this can be, and how the way that depression as a whole wasn’t treated correctly for a long time, many kids and adults make assumptions and stereotypes about the feelings and lives of youth’s with depression. I first asked my Dad about this question, to see what he thought about the matter. When I asked him what he thought about the topic, he first said that he believes “Many youth feel embarrassed by their depression, and feel that their is something wrong with them.” I found this answer very interesting because when I first started thinking about this topic, I thought that stigmas were only made by people who don’t know what someone might be going through. However thinking about my Dad’s first answer I realized that the stigmas, and stereotypes are rooted so deeply that even the people living with depression make assumptions about themselves. When I questioned him further about what the incorrect behavior for trying to help someone overcome depression, he mentioned that kids “expect people to just get over it” and think of it as just a phrase or someone just having a bad week. He said that we should “Make it clear that depression is a disease, not just sadness.” When I asked him what can stop these stigmas, he told me that schools should have better systems of educating about depression, and have youth and adults who have overcome depression talk about it to students. next I interviewed my Mom, but she had very similar feelings towards it as my Dad. She said the depression can make youth “Feel inferior, shameful, and guilty about themselves.” and that people view depression as “Something you can grow out of, a temporary sadness, not a disease.” She also said that we need “more education about depression”, and what to do if you find out that someone you know is afflicted by it. I felt that even after interviewing 2 people my notes felt a bit disconnected from the topic, in a sense that neither of my parents had ever experienced a situation like this, and won’t for the rest of their life. So I decided to interview one of my classmates, Jack. I thought that interviewing someone who has more connection to this topic would be beneficial. Jack made some very interesting points. He said that there were far too many assumptions made about people afflicted with depression, and that “A lot of people try to tell the afflicted person what they should/or shouldn’t do. However he also looked on the other side of the argument and acknowledged that it is a very confusing situations and is hard for many kids to deal with, saying “It’s hard to relate to from an outsider perspective, and a very confusing situation overall.” He also agreed that more educations about how to help someone afflicted by depression is needed. At the end of my interviewing I had learned quite a few new things about the stigmas against depression. Firstly there are way more stigmas about depression than I thought, and a lot of them are being made. Secondly it’s a very confusing situation for everyone involved and is extremely hard to deal with. Finally I believe that we must implement a lot more education about how someone can help a friend who is struggling with depression. My interviews were really eye-openening and I look forward to learning more about my topic.

Evan McMahan

6 Responses to “#2 What are People Assuming?

  • Colleen Kiley
    6 years ago

    Hi Evan,

    It’s great to “meet” you! My name is Colleen and I am an English teacher at Mount Abraham in Bristol. I teach 9th grade, yearbook, and also some junior/senior electives. Currently I am teaching creative writing. I’ve been involved in WtS for a few years, and always love seeing the many different topics that emerge for students. You’ve picked a wonderful topic. There is so much to explore here and mental health is such a huge part of every teenager’s life.

    I really appreciated how you recognized, after interviewing your mom and dad, that you needed a different perspective. Great idea to talk to someone your own age. It’s interesting to note that your friend and your parents both felt that more education was necessary. I like that your classmate brought up the people surrounding the person with depression. He’s right: it’s difficult to know how to respond or how to help.

    I’m super curious what other types of people you hope to talk to. I’m guessing that talking to a guidance counselor in your school and other mental health professionals could provide so much information. There is also the science/biology side of the topic. I think the focus on education is huge, too, though and I wonder if that’s a direction you plan to take. Can’t wait to read more!


  • Hi Evan-It was so interesting to read about the interviews with your parents and how they were different from the interview with your friend! It is important to look at a situation from many angles, and it is great that you have done just that! I love the line “stereotypes are rooted so deeply that even the people living with depression make assumptions about themselves”. I thought this was a very insightful observation and I think it is a very important reality that needs to be realized in order to help educate students about depression and end the stigmas that surround the disease. I also notice that you mention how some people talk about depression as if it is just “having a bad week” and we’ll “get over it”. These are definitely phrases I have heard many people say, and I think they arise from a lack of education on the topic of depression. I wonder what programs schools currently have in place to try to educate students on depression and mental illness. I can’t wait to learn more from you as you continue to delve into this topic!

  • I like that you spoke with people in different age groups and of different genders on your issue since depression really is impacted so much by the social stigmas that come with differences in societal classification! That brings me to what I wonder, which is whether you could connect this to other social issues. For example, how much higher the suicide rate is for men than it is for women and how disproportionately depression and other mental illnesses affect queer people.

  • Hi Colleen, you’re response helped me a lot with my topic. I think focusing on education is the best way to tackle this issue, and by explaining and identifying the science behind depression, some kids might understand what depression is better. I think with a better understanding of what depression is, people can provide empathy and know how to help someone a lot easier.

  • Hi Katherine, thanks for your comment! I can’t speak for other schools, but my school is very lacking in the topic in my opinion. The education focuses more on self-help that many people suffering from depression, don’t feel comfortable getting (shown by some of the stats in my next blog post) and seems to just repeat that if a friend tells you they are suffering from depression, just tell an adult. While I do know the immense value in telling in adult, I believe that it is just as or even more influential for a friend to be able to help. Furthermore it says nothing about what depression is as a disease and this can confuse many kids on what depression is.

  • Hi Phaedra! I think your comment really adds a great perspective on this issue. I think their are a lot of subcultures that impact this topic, and taking them into account is very helpful for exploring his topic. By seeing why these statistics vary in different groups, and analyzing the cultures of those groups, it can be more easily seen what makes people have these stigmas. Thank you for this comment, I’ll be sure to think of it when it comes to the upcoming blog posts.

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