PUBLISHED June 18, 2012

Sad but True: Why Mental Health Disorders Deserve More Respect

Opinion piece for my online writing class about depression medication. People with depression can be incredibly annoying…none the less…

Having a mother with depression is hard. Having a mother with depression and a master’s degree in behavioral science and mental health is enlightening. I’ve learned a lot living with my mother but what I’ve found most shocking is the lack of seriousness that surrounds treating mental illness. Major depressive disorder is a physical ailment. Just as one would immediately see a doctor and receive appropriate treatment for a broken leg, a heart condition or a long term sickness such as diabetes or even asthma, I strongly believe the same level of seriousness is needed for the treatment of depression.

Depression itself is a term that gets tossed around more than it gets understood. It would be inhuman to not feel down, blue or upset at some point going about one’s daily life. However, depression is a technical disorder meaning that it interferes with everyday life, sometimes for over weeks at a time. Imagine waking up, considering the day you have ahead of you and finding no joy. Or of having a voice inside of your head constantly telling you nothing was worth your time or energy, including your own life. These are things people suffering with depression must battle with on a daily basis. This is why they need medication and therapy.

According to a New York Times article detailing the basics of depressive disorder there is really no known cause of depression. What is known, however, is that it is a physical imbalance of chemicals within the brain. Because everything we experience is in essence a series of chemical reactions, an imbalance of certain chemicals can cause us to perceive our own realities very differently. Certain chemicals are related to happiness, specifically serotonin and dopamine. People suffering from depression have a deficit of these chemicals. According to Dr. R.H. Belmaker and Dr. Galila Agam, authors of the article, “Major Depressive Disorder,” written for the New England Journal of Medicine, depression is in fact related to normal feelings of sadness and bereavement . What makes it different and almost unbearable for those who live with it is that these feelings don’t stop when the external cause of the emotions dissipate. Not only that but the feelings are also disproportionate to their causes, meaning seemingly small events can have a major depressive effect.

Often times people argue that depressed people should just, “get over it,” or mend all aspects of their lives before considering medication, such as getting on a healthy diet and exercising regularly. That would be assuming that healthy, active people are immune to depression. Though depression is accepted as a medical condition it is hardly given the attention or respect that physical conditions receive. Just take a look at the funding.

Despite the scientific evidence detailing the conditions of major depressive disorder, funding for mental health research and services wanes on the list of state and national priorities. A report for the National Alliance on Mental Illness titled “Mental Health Cuts: A National Crisis,” explains the falling funding efforts. The introduction reads, “From 2009 to 2011, massive cuts to non-Medicaid state mental health spending totaled nearly $1.6 billion dollars. And, deeper cuts are projected in 2011 and 2012.” Soon, Medicaid support for mental health services will too be affected and, as the authors of the report state, “Medicaid is the most important source of funding of public mental health services for youth and adults, leaving people with mental illness facing the real threat of being cut off from life-saving services.”

When we see someone who has overcome some sort of horrible disease or physically disability, we applaud them. Why do mental health disorders not receive the same respect? Just as we go to the dentist and doctor to maintain our physical health we should pay as much mind to, well…our minds. They are equally if not more so complex than our bodies.

I have lived my entire live with a mom struggling with a disease I can’t see and can’t help. But by those of us around her taking her illness seriously she’s become not sad, but strong. And everyone suffering from a mental health disorder deserves the same.

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