Are you depressed or having a tough week?

“I’m so depressed…” is a statement you may hear often, and some people use this description lightly when they’re having a rough day or they’re not happy about a situation.

For example, “I’m so depressed that my favourite Netflix show is over.” You may have even heard children use the words, “It’s depressing,” when simple things in life don’t go their own way.

Our modern culture has seemingly replaced feelings of “disappointment” or “sadness” with a self-diagnosis of “depression” and so, we have to ask ourselves if we’re losing sight of the real issue of depression, and most importantly, the people who are genuinely suffering from depression, often without being taken seriously.

While feelings of disappointment or sadness are real and can genuinely feel overwhelming at times, its important to differentiate between everyday emotions and an issue that requires support. Knowing and respecting the difference could help end the stigma, and potentially save lives.

Depression can affect a person’s emotional, physical and mental well-being. It’s not uncommon for people to suffer with depression. In fact, it’s one of the most common mental illnesses in Canada, with an estimated 1 in 4 Canadians experiencing a degree of depression serious enough to need treatment at some time in their life. Most importantly, depression can affect anyone, at any stage of life, and can be chronic or situational.

In decades past, depression often went undiagnosed or it was simply brushed under the carpet for fear of public shame or stigma. It was difficult for people to recognize the difference between feelings of temporary sadness and an actual mental illness. Sufferers were encouraged to “snap out of it” or “to quit feeling sorry for themselves,” – both due to a lack of public education and awareness. Fast forward to 2020 and the word depression has become such a part of our common daily language that we might presume any fear of stigma would have disappeared for sufferers. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

If you talk to someone suffering from depression, they will tell you that they felt uncomfortable to ask for help – even today. And the most common reason is that healthy people talk about being “depressed” so lightly and frequently that it has made the real sufferers feel invalid to ask for help.

So how can you tell if you’re suffering from depression or having a rough week?

Depression is more than feeling down or sad on occasion. When it comes to depression, the sadness is consistent, long-lasting and impacts your daily life. Some sufferers struggle to get out of bed; may go extended time without social interaction; may start to believe negative things about themselves, and in certain cases, can turn to self-harm or suicide.

During this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have come forward reporting symptoms of depression than ever before, and these feelings are very real. Increased stress, employment insecurity, working from home and social isolation have all certainly contributed to additional cases of situational depression in Thunder Bay and around the world. And for those who were already experiencing chronic depression before the pandemic, their health has deteriorated further.

The good news is that no matter whether you are suffering from depression or you are simply feeling down in the dumps, no one has to face their challenges alone.

It’s ok to reach out for support – whether you turn to family, friends or professional counselling. The answer may be a listening ear from a friend to cheer you up, or support from a professional.

Being open and honest about how you feel should never make you feel ashamed or uncomfortable – no matter the reason. The key is to understand what being “depressed” actually means for those around us who are genuinely coming to terms with or struggling with a mental illness. So, let’s talk about our feelings, seek support from others and break down barriers, but let’s not overuse the word depression as a simple, everyday word just because we’ve run out of chocolate.