How to Explain Depression to Someone Who Doesn't Understand

For a person who does not have depression, understanding it will be a challenge - but thankfully, not impossible. When people opens up their  heart and mind to educating themselves about depression, it is a positive step forward into developing an acceptance of it in society. What’s more, their powerful action can encourage generations in the future to advocate for its importance. 

This is how to explain depression to someone who doesn’t understand: 

It’s a mental illness, not a mindset or choice

One common assumption associated with depression is the fact that it is a mindset that can be overcome with positive thoughts - but that couldn’t be any farther away from the truth; people cannot just “get over” their depression by changing their attitude. Depression is a legitimate mental illness that is caused by environmental factors, personal circumstances, or genetic and biological elements. For example, sometimes people will have depression because they had a traumatic experience in life, arecurrently in a situation that continually puts them in a  lousy headspace, or their brain chemistry is off-balance. In a nutshell, no one chooses to have depression.

Disassociating from reality is a common occurrence

Depression tends to make a person produce irrational thoughts about themselves, that consequently, causes disassociation from reality and the truth. For example, depression provokes feelings of worthlessness which can trigger suicidal idealization or even propel someone to attempt suicide. Additionally, individuals with depression naturally isolate themselves from relationships and interactions with other people because they may believe they are a burden due to their depression. In reality, they are worthy and are not a burden to the people they love. Their minds just make them believe otherwise.

“I am more aware of my feelings than you think”

Individuals with depression know that they need to be positive to have a good day, but deciding to maintain a positive attitude is much more complicated and difficult for them. It’s a thousand times harder since depression depletes motivation. The most heartbreaking thing for someone is being well-aware of depression, but not feeling any desire to participate in the activities that once made him/her happy or the fact that sometimes, he/she suddenly experiences depressive symptoms without an apparent reason.

Seeking help is not easy

Because mental illness has a prominent and negative stigma in society, it discourages individuals from seeking help. Admitting you have depression is one of the most frightening and intimidating things to do; and since this is the case for the majority of people with depression, many of them do not seek help in the first place. Furthermore, anybody would initially feel uncomfortable at the idea of talking to a therapist or taking medication since doing so might express they have “given up” or they need pills to upkeep their mood. Nothing is wrong with admitting you need help or have depression, and it certainly should not be looked down upon to take medication. But to this day, people are still afraid to associate themselves with any sort of mental illness because they do not want others to think poorly of them or be outcasted. 

The most common actions feel like the most incredible achievements

Getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating a meal, and even brushing one’s teeth are milestones for individuals with depression. What is easy and routine to another is the most challenging act of the day for some. Depression always drains a person’s emotional and mental energy, which can make any simple act feel like the tallest mountain to climb. 

Depression is difficult to explain to a person who has not experienced it. However, what matters most is that there are conversations about depression in the first place. Hopefully, one day, sadness and depression and other mental illnesses, for that matter, won’t feel like taboo topics. Instead, they will be crucial subjects to approach, and taking care of one’s mental health will always be just as important as maintaining physical well-being.

Trevor McDonald

You can find Trevor on LinkedIn or his website

Meet Bridge, the Artist Behind this Years Art Festival Logo

Bridget Hochman designed this year’s logo for the Mental Wellness Center’s annual Art Festival. The logo has summer vibes with beautiful florals. The strong and inspiring word HOPE is placed on a deep ocean blue background.

The art festival is a place where individuals living with mental illness can come and present their work for exhibit and for sale to the Santa Barbara community. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday and a wonderful opportunity to buy with a purpose. The festival is planned by Darcy Keep and hosted by the Mental Wellness Center.

Bridget has been drawing since a young child using whatever art supplies were available. “My first watercolor painting was of the gazebo at Alice Keck Park. I actually sat on a bench at the park and painted it outdoors, but now I prefer to work inside and use photos of my subject matter as a reference.” When asked what her style is she replied, “My style is a combination of watercolor and digital; I always scan my paintings into the computer and work on them with Photoshop.”

At the art festival you will find a variety of art from jewelry, drawings, greeting cards, greenery arrangements, sculptures and more! The day is full of smiles, inspiration, and a sense of accomplishment. For many of the artists creativity has been an instrumental outlet for their health. “I have always been very shy and creating art has given me a way to express myself. I chose watercolor because it is challenging and I love the transparent quality of the paint on the watercolor paper. Watercolor has also taught me patience because I must wait for the paint to completely dry before painting a new section,” expresses Bridget.

The art festival is a positive way for individuals with a mental illness to integrate with the Santa Barbara Community.

As Santa Barbara County is recovering from natural disasters this year’s natural disasters, hope is vitally important and a perfect theme for the festival.  Bridget says “I chose the word “HOPE” because I wanted people in our community to feel hopeful for the future after the Thomas Fire and mudslides in Montecito. I decided to make the letters big enough so that I could put an image inside each letter. For the first three images I chose plants native to this area: palm trees, a sunflower, and a bird of paradise. For the last image I chose white candles to remember those we have lost. The white candles can also symbolize healing and new beginnings. I chose to make the background different shades of blue, colors that reminded me of the ocean.”


How to Assess Yourself and Know When You Need Support

In the recent weeks in the U.S. it seems we are reminded of this statement over and over again, “You Matter.” It’s unfortunate that it comes as a result of several tragedies. Mental illness doesn’t often show up on the outside, like a wound on your body. Rather it’s an, at times, extremely challenging inner struggle that we have to find coping strategies to work through. My hope is that the publicity around this statement: “You Matter,” begins to make a difference in the way that we begin talking about our inner struggles and mental health. We shouldn’t need deep sad circumstances to remind us that we all matter. It's important to understand where we are, how we are feeling and when it may be time to seek help from others.

Begin with our own self-awareness; regular check-ins need to be a part of everyone's life. If we don’t have a baseline understanding of who we are, we will not know what to compare it to when something feels “off” within us. So check in. Have an understanding of who you are, where you are, and where you’re going. Have knowledge of what brings you joy and what gets under your skin. Take good care of your body, exercise, drink water, eat colorful food and get good sleep. Recognize when you might need more of something and when you need to hold off.

There are times when we may need more than self-awareness and support. When we feel we may need the help of a professional. This can be in a form of a local support group, doctor or therapist. Recognizing when the issue we are facing may be more than we, and our supports, can handle can be, an overwhelming and very vulnerable process. Even the thoughts and feelings that ensue when you realize that you may need help can be heavy. Once you overcome some of the fear and take action, and see a professional, you will feel better!

For some, there is a question of: “how will I know when I may need the help of a professional?” The feeling of being stuck is often a time we seek professional help. Stuck in a feeling that avenues you have tried thus far have not worked. There are some people that have a feeling of being lost and unsure of the direction they want to take or help they need.

Take care of yourself, find value in who you are and what you bring to this world. My hope for you is that you see all of the amazing qualities you DO have and the wonderful path you on are. And please don’t forget...YOU MATTER!

Danielle Riele, MA

The Dance of Pursuit

The definition of pursue is to follow someone or something in order to catch them.  In my relationships I may play the role of the pursuer or the one being pursued.  These roles change as do the players. 

 Example one:  Throughout my 39 years of marriage (yup, 39 years!), there have been times when I have focused, like a laser, my amorous attentions on my husband.  This has happened when I have perceived we were floating apart (distancing). My courtship may include preparing special meals for him, making myself more available for walks, or simply sending him short texts, just letting him know he is in my thoughts.  All these actions to move towards him are usually well received, and don’t cause him to move away.  What may occur in a relationship is that one of the partners may get burned out constantly being the pursuer.  When this happens, the other partner may panic and become the pursuer (change in roles).  Hopefully, there is something left of the relationship to salvage. This could happen in friendships.

 Example two:  When my youngest son was 15 years old and we were in the midst of supporting our older son through difficulties with his mental health, my youngest son began running away.  He was searching for normalcy outside our household.  He would run away, my husband and I would track him down, and we would bring him back. This happened several times.  We were the pursuers and he was being pursued.  What we recognized was that while we were chasing him, he was running – moving away from us.  We were advised to let him go.  I gave him information on homeless resources in our community, I even helped him explore the process of emancipation at age 16.  I helped him pack a duffle bag.  We hugged him and let him go.  I am happy to report that he returned to us three weeks later (one of the longest three weeks of our lives) and never ran away again. 

 Much later, I acquired knowledge concerning the dance of pursuit and distancing.  When we move towards someone with purpose, we pursue.  That person may not welcome our pursuit and will turn away and flee in the opposite direction.  To continue pursuit just increases the distance between the two people.  If you stop pursuing, it gives the person a chance to stop, turn around, and interact. I also learned that in some situations, being the pursuer gives you power while being the pursued takes power away.  I can see this fitting my situation with my son. While I was pursuing my son, my power was giving me the sense of control.  My son experienced a sense of lack of control; he felt trapped.

This lesson has helped me in all my relationships and I hope you find it useful in yours.  If you want to read more about pursuit and distancing in relationships, see the blog published by The Gottman Institute titled: A research-based approach to relationships


How to Help Your Teen Manage Their School-Related Stress


How to Help Your Teen Manage Their School-Related Stress

The most challenging obstacle for teens is school-related stress. They have to balance a social life, stay on top of their academics, and take care of themselves - all at the same time! Without a doubt, this will be incredibly overwhelming for them. As parents, we can support them by giving them the tools and strategies to efficiently manage their stress.


This is how to help your teens manage their school-related stress:


Assist them with time-management their tasks

Efficiently time-management is a necessary skill all teens must implement into their schedules. Since there are so many responsibilities and obligations on a teen’s to do list, learning how to prioritize their most important task and complete assignments within an allocated amount of time increases their productivity. Otherwise, a lack of time-management in one’s day will put a teen in a constant state of stress and anxiety.


Remind them to commit to daily self-care

During the school year, academics are at the forefront of a teen’s mind and everything else, including self-care, will most likely be put on the back burner. Remind your teen that despite having school work as their main priority, their self-care should never be neglected. They should deliberately take action every day to cultivate their emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The most basic methods of self-care include eating three solid meals a day, showering, maintaining personal hygiene and grooming habits, and getting an adequate amount of sleep every night.

Open the floor for discussion over their concerns

Sometimes, all teens need when they’re stressed is for someone to lend an open ear so they can voice their concerns and feelings. As a parent, we can act as that supportive person that can validate them. To do that, we need to offer them the chance to speak freely and vent about whatever is on their mind. During this time, we don’t necessarily need to give our teen advice or an opinion. The majority of the time, a teenagers just want to be heard and understood. You can also direct your teens to other modes of communication, such as pointing out their friends can also act as emotional support and professional help is always available if they need it as well.

Encourage them to dedicate time to their passions

What activity makes your teen feel fulfilled and happy? Encourage them to invest time into their hobbies and passions in conjunction with studying and completing school work. Sometimes, for teens, one of the best ways to cope with stress is by winding down in solitude, retreating into a relaxing mental space, and directing their focus to an activity that temporarily distracts them from their stress. Plus, their hobbies and passions can act as incentives after they finish their homework.

Emphasize that they should avoid harmful coping mechanisms

Some coping methods have the ability to be harmful without teens even realizing it, such as abusing substances like drugs and alcohol. What may appear to be a temporary escape that numbs their stress or takes their mind off things can have long-term consequences on their health. Teen addiction is one of the most prominent concerns in the U.S.! Take a moment to educate them on what harmful coping mechanisms are and the ramifications of engaging in them. However, end with directing them towards healthy coping strategies that will only be helpful rather than harmful to them.

In reality, teens endure a lot of stress and feel pressured to have everything together! As parents, we should be their main support system - because as long as teens get the support they need and learn to cope with their stress in a healthy matter, they will only continuously move forward, thrive in their academic career, and maintain their emotional and physical well-being.

Trevor McDonald