If it’s not ~tragically beautiful~, is it really depression?
First of all, depression always looks beautiful — beautiful characters crying, staring out windows, taking a listless shower, etc. etc. etc., beautifully.
If it doesn't look like it could be a black-and-white GIF on Tumblr, is it really depression?
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Characters with depression are pretty much always reduced to being ~sad~.
Maybe anger, numbness, physical pain, loss of interest in things you love, inability to concentrate, changes in sleep pattern, and any of the other symptoms associated with depression IRL aren't cinematic enough for fictional characters? Or something???
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Most of the time, depression is triggered by Dramatic Plot Elements.
Something big and traumatic happens in a character's life, and BOOM, they have depression. Depression can totally be triggered by life events, but pleeenty of people don't have a "reason" to be depressed, they just are. Because brains. AND WE NEVER SEE THAT PORTRAYED.
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And because of that, depression always culminates as a big blowup or breakdown.
You know, like a big revelation with lots of crying or smashing mirrors or yelling, "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!" When actually, for a lot of people, depression can slowly creep into your life, and by the time you notice it, it's already set up camp.
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Or if a character valiantly pretends they're fine and doesn't succumb to their depression, the audience is obviously supposed to think they're strong and brave.
Waaaay too often shouldering depression on your own and refusing to accept help is portrayed as...an admirable thing? Like, wtf?
In fact, most of the boring parts of dealing with depression are erased.
Like okay, some of the realities of depression, like not being able to get out of bed, or mustering the energy to brush your hair, or trudging through your day feeling nothing at all, wouldn't make for super-compelling TV or whatever, but there must be SOME way to show it.
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Depression is treated as an alluring or mysterious trait that draws the attention of a love interest.
Because being depressed = being a ~tragically beautiful person~, obviously.
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AND THEN THAT LOVE INTEREST ALWAYS ~FIXES~ THE PERSON WITH DEPRESSION.
Like, screw therapy and medication, ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE TO PULL YOU OUT OF THAT FUNK!!!! Ugh.
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If treatment IS explored, it's always super easy and straightforward.
Character wants therapy? Easy! No grappling with how they're going to afford it or browsing Psychology Today to find someone who's actually accepting new patients or going to several first appointments in attempt to find The One. IF ONLY.
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Speaking of therapists, they're usually portrayed as pretty useless.
Yes, finding a therapist you like IS a struggle, and that'd be great to see onscreen, but more often than not, therapists are shown to be unprofessional and incompetent.
—Noor Ansari, Facebook
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When treatment is shown in a positive light, it's always super linear and FAST.
Wouldn't it be nice if all you needed to treat your depression was to accept you had a problem, reach out for help, and take care of it in a few weeks?
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There aren't many examples of high-functioning people with depression, rather than people whose depression completely derails their life.
Depression can definitely be completely debilitating, but at the same time, plenty of people deal with mental illness while navigating day-to-day life, a lot of times without anyone knowing.
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Pretty much every depressed character is also suicidal at some point.
Maybe because it's more ~dramatic~? But while depression is a risk factor for suicide, NOT all people with depression are suicidal.
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More often than not, a character with depression fits a specific stereotype.
You know, like a dark and twisty character or an ~emo~ teenager. LIKE, HELLO. DEPRESSION CAN AFFECT ANYONE.
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And let's be real, even with positive representations of depression, more often than not, the characters are white.
More diversity in mental health representation 2k17, please.
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Medication is treated like this evil, personality-zapping stuff you should avoid at all costs.
It seems like a depression plotline isn't complete without a character dramatically flushing their antidepressants down the toilet.
And depressed characters are always super creative and artistic.
And they usually resist treatment because they do their best work when they're depressed.
For some reason, going through depression always ends in some sort of cheesy life lesson.
And that lesson usually minimizes the struggles of depression.
And finally, most of this is covered in the span of a Very Special Episode — or, if we're lucky, a small arc — then forgotten about forever.
Because hey, showing depression as an ongoing struggle that requires management would be...too much work? Or something?
Note: This post was inspired by Community suggestions, but does not include direct quotes from users.
And if you need to talk to someone immediately, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. Suicide helplines outside the US can be found here.