I Am That Girl: Student Speaker Series Speech on Depression

B. Barker     06.02.2017

I had the privilege of speaking at Elon University’s I Am That Girl Student Speaker Series on April 06. Here is my presentation on Depression in a Stigmatized Society along with a transcript of my speech and an informational handout on how you can help:

Depression in a Stigmatized Society

Transcribed Speech:

Hello, my name is Brittany Barker and I am a sophomore here at Elon University. I am here today to speak about depression in society, but before we begin, I would like to remind everyone that self care is important and we will be going over some difficult topics. So if you need to leave the room in order to take care of yourself, please feel free to do so.

Alright, by a show of hands, how many people here know someone who has, or has had, depression? Everyone in this room, awesome.

Last year, there was an Elon student who made the decision to take his life. It absolutely devastated our campus and many students, faculty, and staff attended a candlelight ceremony to honor his memory. But many people didn’t know that he was going through depression. And because many people didn’t know this, he wasn’t able to get the help that he needed.

So everyone in here knows someone with depression, and is therefore impacted by depression in some way, shape, or form, but not everyone feels this way. We will be discussing the stigma of depression, depression and how it impacts the individual *both the definitions and the symptoms*, and what you can do.

According to an article that came out in March from the Huffington Post, when people come out about *having* depression, the top tree responses are: “that’s crazy”, “suicide is for the weak”, and “you’re only depressed because it’s in your head and you’re letting yourself be depressed.” This article highlights just how stigmatized depression is in our society.

People will often assume that depression is a state of mind even though there’s no cure for depression and depression is different for everybody. It impacts individuals in different ways, and impacts their life separately. Fatigue and immense sadness, often times prevent people with depression from integrating with society and having a “normal” life.

The idea that people with depression are crazy, came from an American psychologist named Albert Ellis, who said, “you largely constructed your own depression and it wasn’t given to you, therefore you can deconstruct it.” Now, Albert Ellis was a professor at Harvard University and in 1950 when he said this, everyone believed it. Who wouldn’t believe a Harvard professor? So because he established this idea that depression makes people crazy, it made it even more difficult for people with depression to cope and integrate themselves in society.

However, the National Institute of Mental Health has stated that depression doesn’t discriminate and it is not something that people construct. In fact, many times depression is caused by chemical changes in the brain. The exact cause is not yet identified, but people are working to identify it. Depression has also been linked to genetics, so one’s genetic history, you might want to talk to doctors, but it’s not certain. Unfortunately there is not a lot of background on what causes depression. Also, 16 million adults are diagnosed with depression each year and 7% of the U.S. population currently has depression, either clinical or causal. Women are twice as likely to have depression than men and while depression can occur or develop at any age, it’s mostly adults that are diagnosed.

Moving on, depression and the individual. Depression is defined by the dictionary as a feeling of severe despondency or dejection. The clinical definition of depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest, which brings me to the four main symptoms of depression: loss of interest, fatigue, isolation and sadness. Depression is so impactful on individuals that the Center for Disease control found suicide (linked to depression) to be the tenth leading cause of death in 2015 and George Saunders, who wrote many short stories, including the Tenth of December, created a character who goes and decides to take his own life in order to relieve the burden of himself from his loved ones. While it is unclear if this character was depressed or not, many critics have pondered the idea of this character facing this mood disorder simply because of how similar his symptoms are to those of people who are impacted by depression today.

So many people have depression, and everyone here knows someone with depression, so a modern psychologist, James Hillman, came out and said, “instead of seeing depression as a dysfunction, we should see it as a functioning phenomenon. It stops you cold, sets you down, makes you miserable.”

But what can you do? Well, I’ll tell you. I have six baby steps you can follow from Health.com that can help you, help others.

  1. Step One: Ask to have a talk with them. Just be sure to make sure that they are comfortable with you, but if they aren’t, try and help them find someone they are comfortable with.
  2. Step Two: Find a private area to talk. It’s hard to tell one person, let alone risk having many people hear. Additionally, you might want to share a personal story of your own to let them know that it’s okay and they can feel safe opening up to you.
  3. Step Three: Don’t push them. Encourage them. Again, this is a hard topic so there’s no need to add extra pressure.
  4. Step Four: Spend time with them. Invite them places. Even if they say no, that doesn’t mean you should stop offering. Sometime they might say yes. And if you know something they like to do, offer and suggest doing that.
  5. Step Five: Inform them of therapy and medicine. Let them know that this is not going to make them any less of a person. It’s okay.
  6. Step Six: Let them know you are there for them. Not just once, but over and over again. This is important because depression is capable of making people feel more alone than many people realize and it’s always good to know that someone else has your back.

Demi Lovato is a great example of why these steps are important, as she has been very successful despite suffering from depression. She has been successful because her friends, family, and fans gave her the support she needed in her darkest moments, where she would harm herself in order to escape. But now she’s thriving, and is a great example of someone who defies the stigma of depression.

To conclude, we have gone over depression in society, depression and how it impacts the individual, and what you can do to fight both depression and the stigma. Before you leave, please pick up a flyer with the steps you can take to help others, and please, if you know someone who needs help or need help yourself, don’t be afraid to call the hotline number 1-800-273-8255, go to the online chat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org, or call 911. Thank you so much for your time and have a great evening.

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