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Dr. Deb Addresses the Stigma of Mental Illness

Posted Apr 23 2009 5:23pm

I just discovered this great blog and have already spent half an hour checking out all the great information it has to offer. The blog owner is Deborah Serani, Psy.D., a psychologist who specializes in trauma and depression. You can check out her list of credentials here.

One great article on her blog that you should check out is “ Stamping Out the Stigma of Mental Illness ”.

If you’re like me, you probably don’t even like hearing the term “mental illness” in relationship to depression – at least I don’t. The stigma attached to the term mental illness is very real and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Her introduction below pulled me right in by showing that depression is no big deal.

I don’t get it.
It’s not a big deal.
I have depression.
I was diagnosed with it over twenty years ago.
I take medication to replenish my brain chemistry with serotonin and I have been in talk therapy too. My life is meaningful and I have a sense of contentedness because of the combination of these therapies. It’s not a mark of shame or a character flaw that I have depression. It’s a genetic, biochemical, physiology illness. I just wish the rest of the world could learn the facts correctly.

Bravo! I totally agree. I especially like how she writes, “It’s not a mark of shame or a character flaw that I have depression. It’s a genetic, biochemical, physiology illness.”

When I tell people that I have depression, I can feel that mark of shame descend on me every time. Suddenly I’m seen as a weak person, unable to take the pressures of daily life. No one every acts as though I am a strong person for effectively dealing with depression while raising two young kids, training for a sprint triathlon and starting a web site about depression.
And yet, I feel like a strong person for all that I’m able to accomplish.

Despite my feelings on the subject, the stigma attached to mental illness steam rolls me flat when I least expect it. Like when a friend implies that depression can be willed away and then stares in disbelief when I suggest that perhaps diabetes can then be willed away too since both illnesses are real medical conditions.

It’s amazing how hearing a “crazy” joke or how someone must have “forgotten to take his medication today” can throw me for a loop. If I’m having a bad day, do they say that about me?

No matter how many times I speak up against the stigma of depression, it is always with my heart pounding and fear pulsing through my veins. Too many times, I’ve let fear win and have refrained from sharing my shameful secret.

If any of this rings true for you, or if you think that depression is only for the weak minded, check out Dr. Deb’s article.

And thanks, Dr. Deb, for writing such a great article on something so close to my heart. It's nice to know that I'm not alone.

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