Why “It Will Get Better” Isn’t Enough

Posted: May 17, 2016 in evidence based policy, Psychology in Daily Life, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Like almost 12% of teenagers in the United States, I suffered from depression when I was younger.  (and still, but that’s another story).

Depression is insidious, partly because we overuse the term, but also because we have a lingering belief that folks should just “snap out of” whatever is bothering them, totally discounting that this is an illness that needs to be dealt with.

Building positive coping skills is an important part of treatment for people struggling with depression.  Coping skills (the fancy psychological term for how we make ourselves feel better) can be anything, from listening to music, to running, to petting a dog, to painting, to talking on the phone.  The possibilities are endless, and it’s important to have a large list, because each coping skill is not going to work in every situation (i.e. I might not always be able to go for a run, or some days my favorite movie doesn’t help, etc).

One of the most prevalent coping skills suggested to me, and that’s often suggested for folks through the popular media, is that things will improve in the future.  It was a movement of support for LGBTQIA youth a couple years ago.  It’s still something I tell myself.

It’s not the most effective thing to tell someone struggling with depression.

Part of being depressed is the loss of hope, of optimism, and of future orientation.  When you’re depressed, you’re not too interested in tomorrow, because things are awful today, right now.   Depression saps your motivation and energy.  “It gets better” might be true, and it’s a great message, but it’s not enough on its own, because depression works against that.

I truly believe that often things do get better, if only because feelings of intense sadness are just that – feelings, and feelings pass.  What we must be careful to avoid is invalidating people’s depression and sadness now, in service of a misty, hopeful future.

 

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