The Ministry of Health tweeted a poster on how to ‘cope with depression’ on 25th June 2018, and it starts a conversation about mental illness in the worst possible way. The only thing the poster highlighted was the idiocy and ignorance of those who created and approved it and just how misunderstood mental illness is in our country. 

The poster as well as the copy-text following it not only presents depression as something it is not, but is actually based on the misconceptions that people have about mental illness. It presents depression not as a real illness but something people can snap out off, or something that can be treated with just a change in lifestyle. It completely disregards the fact that depression, just like any physical illness, requires proper treatment by a medical professional.

Depression is not about having a ‘low mood’ or being ‘sad’, which can be made better by indulging in some activities. Just like having ‘positive thoughts’ wouldn’t help a person suffering from jaundice, it also won’t help someone suffering from depression.

Also Read: Why We Must Learn To Distinguish Between Sadness And Depression

What helps with depression, which is not mentioned in this poster, is going to a therapist and taking prescribed medications regularly. Anti-depressants can improve regressive moods, help with sticking to a proper sleeping schedule, and increase appetite and concentration.

The tips mentioned in this poster are a guide for a healthy life, not a guide for a depressed person. Some of this advice does help with and improve symptoms of depression, but only if the person is getting medical help. They do not eradicate the problem. So while dealing with depression, proper treatment comes before all else.

Just like having ‘positive thoughts’ wouldn’t help a person who has jaundice, it also wouldn’t help someone with depression.

The tweet was followed by outrage on social media about the how this poster is misleading and, in every sense, gets depression wrong.

Here’s why there was a need to outrage about this misleading poster and how it is wrong on so many levels.

1. Let’s start with the point that says, ‘follow a routine’. People suffering from depression can’t follow a routine, that is what depression does. It makes it difficult for people to carry out everyday tasks like getting out of bed or taking a bath. By telling them that they should follow a proper routine in order to improve their mental health, you are making them feel guilty for not being able to do that, pushing them further into depression.

2. What do they even mean by ‘travel’? Firstly, not everyone has the resources to travel, and many people are unemployable because they have depression. Secondly, even if a person has resources (although that should be used for getting proper treatment), travelling does not uniformly help with depression. It is a very stressful process for some people due to all the planning that goes into it. For a person who finds it difficult to even get out of his/her house, travelling can be an extremely isolating and stressful experience.

3.  You don’t tell a person who finds it difficult to do things he/she likes or is generally good at to be ‘creative’. Also, it is so ignorant to not realise that creativity is a subjective term, and is not a solution for depression.

4. It is high time we stop telling depressed people to ‘think positive’. Neither does anybody choose depression and nor does anybody like being depressed. If the solution was as simple as to think positively, and was something that people could control, depression wouldn’t have been classified as a mental illness. Stop treating depression as a state of mind, and start looking at it as an actual illness which can be life-threatening for a lot of people. 

5. Don’t take multivitamins if you are depressed without any proper prescription. They could negatively interact with anti-depressants, or have side effects that worsen the condition. Medicines ought to be taken on only on prescription by a doctor. These suggestions are misleading. 

6. The government needs to stop promoting yoga everywhere. There is no scientific fact that proves yoga is helpful in depression, and again it is very difficult for some people to through with it. There are some cases where meditation helps, but that is also when a person is getting proper treatment, i.e., therapy and medications.

7. Not being able to take baths or carry out daily hygienic activities isn’t a universal symptom of depression. There are people who ‘stay clean’ and yet, it may not help with their depression. While it is important to encourage someone with depression when they bathe after a few days, you can’t ask them to ‘stay clean’, which can be a very difficult task for them, in order to ‘cope’ with depression.

8. Now to the ‘sleep for minimum 8 hours’ advice. One of the biggest symptoms of depression is the disturbance of a regular sleep cycle, which results in sleeping too less or too much. It is not a choice to not sleep for 8 hours or to have an irregular sleep cycle. One has no control over it. You can’t give advice that is impossible for a depressed person to follow.

9. ’Eat fruits’? How is that helpful in the slightest? Why does this poster not consider the fact that depression is inability to do things? Depressives don’t eat for days, or eat too much, and all of this is out of their control. Telling them to ‘eat fruits’ will make them feel guilty for not being able to eat healthy food.

10. Lastly, while walking is a good advice for someone with depression, it might not help everyone. For some people it can be a very tiring experience. Exercise is a temporary solution to help with the symptoms of depression, and in no way combats the actual problem.

The problem is not only the misrepresentation of depression, which is already an extremely isolating experience, but also the fact that such a careless remark comes from a government ministry. These are the people responsible for making and formulating healthcare policies, and if they don’t have a clear picture of what mental illness actually is, providing treatment will be a very difficult thing. Also, it is very problematic for people who cannot share their illness because it is not seen as a ‘real illness’.

So Ministry of Health, if you want to start a conversation on mental illness please be informed about it, and if you are not informed, then don’t go on to post such ignorant and misleading posters which is about everything other than depression.


Featured Image Source: Ministry of Health | Twitter

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