End the Stigma – It’s Time to Talk About Depression in the Military

To the average person who lives every day without the struggle of depression – you are envied. With that being said, this is a silent illness. A perfectly regular person you pass that smiles at you could be contemplating suicide. There is a stigma behind this unspoken word and hidden illness that needs to be taken as serious as someone struggling with a visible illness.

In America alone, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. With that being said, statistically, at least 105 Americans commit suicide every day. That is a devastating number, considering that every twelve minutes someone who is struggling decides to end their life because they can no longer suffer the storm churning within them. The stigma is unfortunate. People selfishly state that someone died by suicide, killed themselves, were reckless, and selfish to the ones who loved them. People do not die from suicide, they die from depression. Unfortunately, many of these people who are struggling are military personnel and many veterans commit suicide – approximately 22 every single day.

Recently, there have been many movements to end the stigma associated with people who have depression and mental illnesses in general. However, is that really helping? Every year the rates of suicide increase. What people don’t understand is that depression isn’t crying over a small fight with a friend who didn’t return borrowed clothes. Depression can be defined as someone sitting on the couch and staring at the wall watching paint dry. Depression is curling up in the shower contemplating whether the world would be a better place without you. Depression is purposefully locking away medications and sharp objects to avoid acting out when the dark thoughts race through your mind.

Most people need to be educated on the topic, because some are so quick to judge. Here we go. Depression can completely alter the way your brain functions. Your mind might play tricks on you, and seep into your dreams. This is why so many people who suffer from depression also suffer with insomnia. It’s scary to be awake, and it’s scary to sleep. The less you sleep, the more often your mind plays tricks on you. On the other hand, depression can leave you jobless. Some people sleep hardly ever, while others can’t even find the strength to get out of bed.

Military DepressionWhile depression is a disease of the mind, it affects your body on the outside as well. People who have lived with endless depression often have to seek physical therapy for chronic pain. Stress causes tension, and tension turns into continuous and almost uncontrollable body spasms and external wounds. It’s a vicious cycle- being depressed causes pain, and chronic pain only causes more depression. Depression can be mild and curable, as in a job loss or recent divorce. Usually these mild cases are treated with therapy. Unfortunately, there is the most severe form of depression that is only controlled by medication and continuously seeing a therapist and psychologist. This can last a lifetime. Studies have even found that depression can be genetically passed down from other family members. If you have a long family history of mental illness, it doesn’t mean that you will battle depression. However, you do have an increased risk.

The time is now to end the stigma of depression. With that being said, you don’t have to run around and tell the world that you’re depressed. Mental illness is not a laughing matter, and people who suffer struggle every day with thoughts of self-harm and internal pain that feels like a mixture of the worst hangover in your life, the deepest moments of anguish you could imagine, and the feeling of being unloved or unwanted.

There is no easy way to go about talking to a loved one about their illness. It’s not easy to accept, but it’s how our brains are wired. You have no idea how much struggle lingers beneath the smiles while passing a stranger and the quiet laughs while in public. By all means, do NOT push. Someone with the weight of the world on their shoulders does not need the extra pressure. All that it takes is for you to reach out. It’s as simple as that. So many people don’t understand that a simple act of kindness can help a person who is suffering to understand that someone out there is watching their back. If you know someone who is pushing through their life every day, do both them and yourself a favor. When you give compassion, you receive it.

If you are currently at the breaking point of depression and are contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. Whether you call a suicide hotline, contact an old friend or family member, or rush yourself to the hospital – do what is best for you to save your life. If you look at someone who is suffering from depression as weak, you are part of the stigma and your attitude needs an adjustment. People with depression are warriors that fight inner battles every minute of the day. Roughly 350 million people around the world suffer from depression, and 105 people dying every day from depression is 105 too many. Ending the stigma now can start with one person – be that change in someone’s life.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Natalie Applegate

Natalie is a freelance writer working for multiple websites and is a devoted military spouse to an aircraft electrician. She started in New Mexico then moved to Okinawa for six years, stationed on Kadena where she began her writing career. A mental health awareness activist, she has spent much of her time volunteering with combat vets and writing their stories.
Natalie Applegate
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