By Paul Stanchfield, PA-C

Many people who are diagnosed with depression encounter the very real issue of stigma and misunderstanding about mental illness that exists in our society. Depression can still be seen by some as weakness, self-pity, or a character flaw. When patients experience this kind of stigma they can become fearful about speaking about their depression, avoid seeking help, or become isolated. This can create a barrier to people getting the help they need.

Paul Stanchfield, PA-C
Paul Stanchfield, PA-C

Locally, the Brattleboro Retreat, and we here at Brattleboro Internal Medicine are trying to combat the negative stereotyping and stigma associated with depression that sometimes prevent people from seeking treatment and asking for support. Depression and other mental health illnesses are real medical conditions, just like heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Through a multi-faceted approach to treatment health care professionals can work with a patient to treat this disease like other chronic diseases with therapy, behavioral changes, wellness programming, and in some cases medication.

Another issue that gets in the way of treating depression is what is often referred to as the “trap of meaning”. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) describes this as when a provider or patient who, in their search for an explanation or reason for their depression, may focus only on external events and circumstances and fail to recognize and treat the underlying disease of depression. In other words, negative life events or circumstances are not necessarily triggers for depression. In some cases, they can make it worse but are not the primary cause. People who have successful careers, healthy relationships, and supportive families can experience depression. Just like high blood pressure or other diseases there are multiple causes and contributing factors.

Don’t get trapped by your preconceptions about what depression is and the stigmas that exist about the type of person who experiences it. If you are experiencing symptoms such as feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness, angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much it is important that you seek the help you need. We at Brattleboro Internal Medicine are here to support and help you get the care you need.

Paul Stanchfield, PA-C is a certified physician assistant at Brattleboro Internal Medicine, a department of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.