What Antidepressant Commercials Get Wrong About Depression


We’ve all seen those commercials. The ones that typically feature older, nice-looking, well-dressed people going about their daily lives with slightly pained expressions on their faces, sighing and saying they simply don’t enjoy things the way they used to. And then they take the magic pills and suddenly they are smiling and enjoying life again.

For years, these commercials were my only exposure to this mysterious thing called depression. And they perplexed me. Why did these people feel sad all the time? Why did they need these pills to be happy? How was this considered a medical issue?

If I hadn’t gone on to experience severe depression firsthand, I probably never would have learned what it truly was. My concept of it would have come only from what those commercials have shown me. But now that I know better, I’m amazed at how all the commercial portrayals of depression are dead wrong.

Depression doesn’t just make a person feel sad all the time. It sucks the life out of a person, to the point where they can’t feel anything at all. It doesn’t just take away your enjoyment of your favorite activities. It makes you dread the things you once used to love, to the point where just the thought of them brings you pain. Depression can make getting out of bed, let alone leaving the house, seem torturous. Depression can cause incessant guilt, frequent fits of rage and the desire to end your life. Thus, it can tear apart every aspect of a person’s life, especially relationships with friends and family. It makes waking up each morning feel like entering your own personal hell.

Furthermore, these commercials usually never show young people struggling with depression. Therefore I had thought for years that depression was an “old person” problem. Receiving my diagnosis at 14 felt bizarre to me. I felt as though I didn’t have the right to be depressed, as I was so young, with so little life experience or responsibilities. I didn’t know at the time that mental health issues often develop in severity during adolescence and young adulthood.

Another misleading thing about these commercials is they make it look like antidepressants can completely cure you. But they are nowhere near that simple. Antidepressants may assist in balancing you out, but they are not magical. They are not happy pills. Even while taking them, I still feel the effects of depression. I still have days when I cannot function. I still feel the numbness and irritability, the fatigue and the guilt. Antidepressants don’t cure me — they make it possible for me to function. They make all these things easier to bear.

I think if antidepressant commercials were more accurate in their representation, depression would be taken more seriously. People would have a better understanding of it, and would see it as an illness and not just an emotion. They would see the effects depression can have on a person, and know why medication for mental health issues is so important. And people would no longer have unrealistic expectations of antidepressants. There would be a better understanding of what they are truly for.

These commercials are an opportunity to reach widespread audiences and educate them on mental health issues, an opportunity I think is not recognized. I hope as we make strides in fighting the stigma and misconceptions of depression and other mental illnesses, the flaws with these commercials will be widely recognized and fixed.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty Images photo via cindygoff


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.



Related to Depression

Am I a Bad Person for How Depression Made Me Act?

Over the past few months, I’ve had a really hard time feeling like I am a good person. I had been convinced by a few individuals (who very clearly do not understand depression) that I am self-absorbed, needy, a bad person/friend and overall just messed up. I used to be able to distinguish a clear sense [...]
business woman sitting at desk taking coffee break

How Making a Video Game Helped Me With My Depression

I have been a game developer for the past eight years, but I worked in game studios and I programmed whatever my company told me to. But I never made my own game, on my own. As part of my Master’s by Practice for a degree in Video Game Enterprise and Production, I had the [...]
you're the worst

The Scene From 'You're the Worst' I Relate to Most as Someone With Depression

Recently, I started watching the TV show, “You’re the Worst.” The show is listed as a comedy series dealing with two main characters: Gretchen and Jimmy. Both of them have different opinions on relationships. Gretchen doesn’t believe they are her thing while Jimmy thinks all relationships are doomed the moment they begin. Later on in [...]
black and white photo of young woman on smartphone social media leaning against stone wall

What You Need to Remember If Social Media Impacts Your Depression

If you battle depression, then you already know how hard it is to get through the day. Any day. The number of people affected by depression and anxiety is on the rise. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015 an estimated 322 million people were living with depression, making it the leading cause [...]