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Why This Meme Is So Wrong About Antidepressants

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A family member recently shared this meme on Facebook. It depicts a nature scene, captioned “this is an antidepressant,” above a photo of pills captioned “this is shit.” As of today, it has almost 35,000 shares. Although I usually try to disregard negative social media posts, this one left me feeling invalidated, angry and perplexed. How could someone actually stand behind a photo that shares such a negative connotation about mental health care?

Meme about antidepressants, showing a nature scene with 'this is an antidepressant' and pills saying 'this is shit'

Being on medication for depression has changed my life dramatically. It has allowed me to begin to enjoy life again. It has allowed me to have the motivation to focus on other means of recovery as well, like therapy, exercise and meditation. It certainly hasn’t cured me, but my quality of life is better because of it.

I am fully aware that exercising and spending time in nature can have a positive effect on a person’s mental health. However, I also know I could roam around a forest all day long and it wouldn’t do a damn thing to “cure” my depression. Of course, it can’t hurt. It won’t make my condition worse, and it might actually temporarily improve my mood. But what some people don’t understand is that when you’re in the pits of a depressive episode, taking a walk outside seems as dreadful as doing high-level calculus.

When you’re depressed (generally speaking), there is little to no motivation to get better. Everything seems hopeless. At my worst, my brain would tell me, “Why exercise or go outside? What’s the point? Nothing will ever help me anyway.”

This is why medication can be such a crucial piece of the puzzle for some people. Taking antidepressants isn’t like taking a “happy pill”.

Your problems still exist. You still have to work on your self-talk, your thought processes and your outlook on life. Medication “takes the edge off,” so to speak, so that it is possible to explore other means of recovery.

Being on medication has given me the energy and motivation to exercise and go outside and pursue hobbies. I still struggle with depression, but it’s more manageable. It’s like carrying around a 15-pound weight instead of a 75-pound one.

I’ve read research and books and opinion blogs about the dangers and unnecessary nature of psychiatric medication. I’ve looked into the opposition’s point of view. I think there is something to be said about the impact that nutrition, physical activity and dietary changes can have on our mood. I just believe it is wrong to tell someone that one of the most crucial parts of their recovery is a farce, and that just “going outside” is the answer to all of their problems.

This meme that is making the rounds on social media is, frankly, shameful. You can intellectually debate all you want about the legitimacy and motivations of pharmaceutical companies and the overprescription of antidepressants, but straight up telling millions of people their means of survival is frivolous, is heinous. And I won’t stay quiet about it.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

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Originally published: February 6, 2017
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