Antidepressant commercials make me depressed

Let’s talk about depression. We’ve all seen enough antidepressant commercials to know exactly what this entails. It’s usually some man or woman lit in blue, sitting up in bed and rubbing their heads in frustration. They go out into the world, shadowed by some gray faceless entity or possibly a raincloud. Then they take a magic little pill, and they’re transported to a bright and sunny world where they’re making all their friends laugh. TV is littered with ads just like this, and I’m here to say screw them and screw everything they represent. Screw the way they trivialize the disease and belittle everyone that suffers from it. And screw the way they show a simple, one-step solution in the form of a pill.

First, depression is not some problem that is just fixed with a quick trip to the doctor. Depression is a life-long struggle that takes a hell of a lot of mental strength and a ton of willpower to beat back even an inch. To suggest anything else completely undoes all the hard work that people put into beating the disease. Sure there are plenty of people who have found success with antidepressants, but what these commercials fail to show is the heartbreakingly painful time spent with a doctor baring your soul and praying that he writes you a subscription that actually works. And even if it does work, there is the never-ending process of return doctor’s visits and monitoring your moods to ensure that the drug continues to do its job.

Second, depression is not some comical cloud hanging over you, waiting to be swatted away. Yes, it does follow you around everywhere you go, but it’s so much bigger than that. At its core, depression is a chemical imbalance that robs you of all hope. Depression is that feeling of soul-crushing helplessness that seems to dictate your entire life. It is lying in bed all day because you can’t find a single reason to go out into the world. It is seeing the distance between you and your friends/family grow larger as you struggle to feel worthy of love. But worst of all, depression is knowing that any moment of joy or happiness will fade away, only to be replaced by that all too familiar helplessness. The best way to describe it is as a series of hills and valleys; one minute you’re up and on top of the world and then the next you’re at the lowest point you’ve ever been. These are the things that define depression and these are the things that people always seem to ignore.

Perhaps the most offensive thing about these representations is that they think they can show depression in this tight 30-second window. I realize that commercials are meant to be short and to the point, but condensing a complex issue into such a short amount of time seems almost criminal. These are not pills to help blood flow to limp organs or help with allergies. These drugs dramatically alter brain chemistry and play a pivotal role in deciding someone’s quality of life. By showing some magic pill, pharmaceutical companies are tinkering in people’s lives without any regard to their wellbeing.

As I’m writing this column, I realize that this may come across as some desperate plea for help, but it’s not. I’ve lived with depression longer than I’ve lived with patchy facial hair. For the most part, I’ve learned to live with and accept it — but I can no longer accept this piss-poor representation of depression. It’s a slap to the face of all those who live with and struggle with depression.

If you or someone you know is looking for help dealing with depression, the ASU-dedicated hotline is 480-921-1006. This number is available 24/7. Counseling services can also be reached by appointment.

Reach the columnist at Alec.Grafil@asu.edu or follow @AlecGrafil on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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