Depression as well as many other types of mental illness, is an enigma to many people. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say, “I don’t believe in depression” or how many people have even taken it a step further to say, “I don’t believe in Psychiatrists”.

Personally, when I think of things that I don’t believe in, what comes to my mind are the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and Mermaids.  So why would someone not “believe in” a medical condition that a doctor has to study for ten years in order to become an expert in diagnosing and treating?  However, this is the same amount of time that it takes someone to become an expert in diagnosing and treating cancer and brain injuries.  I have never heard anyone say they don’t believe in cancer or strokes.

I believe there is a fundamental factor that is often overlooked when it comes to trying to understand why people “don’t believe in” depression and that is the fact that we all feel a little down from time to time.  In support of this, I often hear managers or families of a person with depression saying, “But I don’t get it…I also feel a bit depressed sometimes”.  We don’t get a “bit of cancer” or a “bit of a stroke” sometimes, do we?  As a result of this, depression does not stand out as an illness but rather as something that everyone has.  Cancer and strokes on the other hand do stand out as illnesses and are therefore genuinely “believed in” as such.

Feeling “a bit depressed” and suffering from clinical depression are two completely different phenomena.  The former is a normal part of life while the latter is a medical illness, listed in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) as well as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  So it’s not a matter of “believing in it”, it’s a matter of understanding it.

One can choose not to believe in hypnosis, old wives tales, and life on other planets, but please, you cannot simply choose to not believe in something based purely off of a lack of understanding.  Never before in our lifetime, or at least in mine, has mental illness been so prevalent and talked about, especially in our places of work.  If you would like to learn more about the intricacies of mental illness as well as its consequences in the working world, think about signing up for my workshop on Understanding and Managing Mental Illness in the Workplace.

Take care everyone.

Your partner in Mental Health Matters in the Workplace.


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