Fact: Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses around the world. It can affect every race, gender, and age. Yet, despite its prevalence, it remains a bit of an enigma. People who suffer from depression are often faced with many widely believed misconceptions about them and their depression.

Some common myths surrounding depression are:

1: You can just ‘Pull yourself out of it’.

Nobody chooses depression, and likewise, they can’t just ‘choose’ not to be depressed. Depression happens in the brain and is largely beyond the sufferer’s control. Some people, based on their brains, might have a predisposition to becoming or remaining depressed: however, there are often environmental factors that also play a crucial role.

Thinking that someone can just ‘think’ themselves out of depression is unrealistic. For people with depression, a piece of advice they will often hear is to “adopt a glass half full outlook on life” or “think positive thoughts”. The problem with this is; surrounding a negative situation with positive thoughts requires specific and deliberate cognitive processes. With clinical depression, the body has low energy levels and the inability to activate the brain’s pleasure centres. Thus, the brains cognitive abilities lose some of their flexibility, making it increasingly hard to ‘snap out of it’.

With a debilitating diagnosis of depression, even the simplest tasks can take monumental amounts of energy — they can even feel physically impossible.

2: You need a reason to be depressed.

This myth is believed by people with depression, as well as those who don’t have it. For people with depression, it feels like guilt. It’s that feeling of “Look at everything you have, you shouldn’t feel this way. You should be grateful instead.” For people on the outside, it looks more like disbelief; “How can they feel that way? They have so much to be thankful for!”

Clinical depression does not require justification. We live in a society that measures ‘happiness’ through perceived ‘success’. However, this is not the case and often those who should be the happiest — based on their level of ‘success’ — feel the most down.

Even though remarks like “look how much you have to be grateful for.” are often meant to encouraging and helpful, they can often have the opposite effect, making the person feel worse and even more guilty. Having depression does not warrant any more justification than getting the common cold.

3: You can’t be depressed unless you can’t function.

In the case of many bodily illnesses, the proof is in the need to stay home, rest, and the inability to do anything else. This is not the case with depression. In fact, depression can often be quite hidden. It can also look different than you’d expect. The stereotypical symptoms of depression are sadness, loss of interest, desire to sleep all the time, etc. However, depression can also look like irritability, engaging in risky behaviours, or mood swings.

Depression isn’t a cookie cutter disease and it’s symptoms don’t always look the same.

4: Only weak people get depressed.

Clinical depression is not, and never has been, related to a person’s relative strength or weakness. In fact, those who suffer from, and claw themselves out from the depths of depression are some of the strongest people alive. It takes and an immense amount of courage and strength to admit you need help, and to press on everyday despite how you are feeling.

Don’t view depression as a life sentence — because it doesn’t have to be. What if, instead, you viewed it as a challenge? As an opportunity to grow and stretch yourself. A struggle with depression is nothing to be ashamed of. It should be something we talk about more often. By talking about these mental health issues, we can normalize it, and maybe more people will step up and share their story. Depression that is hidden away, is depression that lingers on. Only when it is brought to the light can people begin their journey to healing.

So read more, share more, and speak up! Your story could change someone’s life.

If you suffer from depression, you can find some help here.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts talk to someone! You can find a crisis line here.