Dec 7th, 2015, 11:50 PM

Depression: It’s All in Your Head

By Sigourney Woodfork
The Misunderstandings of Mental Health

I thought it was another women.

A few weeks ago I was dumped. The guy that I had been seeing for a few months abruptly ended things via a cold and curt text message.

I need a break for a while.

At first I was shocked, confused, and angry. There were no warning signs of discontent. The weeks following I brooded over what he had done to me and how I felt, replaying the scenario in my mind trying to come to a precise reason for the abrupt departure. At first I assumed (thanks to the influence of a few of my very jaded lady friends) that the source of the rupture was that his attention had migrated to someone else. I accepted this blunt explanation, but my intuition was telling me that it wasn’t that simple. I had a feeling that mounting stress from work, family problems, and a predisposition to melancholy moods were possible culprits.

My suspicion was confirmed when I heard a TED Radio Hour podcast, by writer and psychologist Andrew Solomon. I realized that perhaps the breakup had nothing to do with me and everything to do with a dark force even more consuming than an affair—depression. 

Negative Stereotypes & STIGMA in Mental Health

Although my experience was very personal, according to the Huffington Post article, 10 Depression Myths We Need to Stop Believing, I’m not alone in my narrow view of depression and other mental health issues. How often do we use phrases such as “I was super depressed” to describe a semi-sad moment, or “my professor was totally bipolar” to illustrate a flippant change. Our modern lexicon reveals how the gravity of mental illnesses is often diluted by casual usage and misunderstanding.

Mental health is just as important as the well-being of the rest of our bodies. It is, however, easily neglected and misunderstood. The recent Disney Pixar movie Inside Out addresses emotional well-being through the personification of the five emotions living inside the mind of an adolescent girl experiencing a dramatic life change. The plot revolves around the balance between joy and sadness and how both are necessary for effective emotional communication.  

Inside Out - Official US Trailer 2

Besides providing 90 minutes of well-crafted animation and family-focused entrainment, the movie gives viewers the vocabulary necessary to talk about complex emotions. Another initiative created to start a conversation around mental health is the UK-based Time to Change campaign that aims to reduce stigma and discrimination around mental health issues ranging from depression to anxiety disorder. The campaign leverages social media to encourage young people from a variety of demographics to open up about dealing with mental health struggles. 

This video from the Time to Change campaign inspired me to swallow my pride and erase the sour feelings I had toward the boy that abruptly left me in the dark. I reached for my phone and sent him a message of compassion letting him know that I was here for him if he ever wanted to talk. Almost immediately I received a response.    

Thank you. I needed that.