Viral Meme Suggests Depression Can Be Cured By Going Outside

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 

Woman explains everything wrong with a harmful meme that calls anti-depressants “garbage”

A writer and activist responded to a meme going around social media that served to stigmatize those who need medication to manage their mental illness. Her words are a powerful reminder that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking medication to help cope with a mood disorder.

Jenny Chiu is a writer, actor, public speaker and activist. She took to Facebook this week to write about a spectacularly insensitive and harmful meme that likens anti-depressants to “garbage,” suggesting a person’s mood disorder can be cured by simply going outside instead.

The meme was originally shared by the Facebook page Earth. We are One., which has over 900,000 fans. That’s a lot of people to see this totally inaccurate and offensive message, which Chiu is seeking to correct with her epic post.

She opens by noting that May is Mental Health Awareness month, and that images like this are irresponsible. She then explains exactly what’s wrong with it. “I find the top part of this image to be absolutely true. Meditating outside, breathing fresh air, taking a break from the blue light of my electronics – that all helps my brain and body tremendously. I find the bottom part of this image to be stigmatizing, and extremely harmful to those who struggle with mental illness. It is irresponsible and IT IS FALSE.”

And she would be right. So many people with mental illness deal with those in their lives who think depression or anxiety can be cured by meditation or a couple days off from work. It’s just not that simple. And suggesting it is can only cause further harm to those affected by a mood disorder.

Chiu writes that she loves the outdoors calling herself “a damn tree hugger” but also notes that there were years of her life where a “cocktail” of meds, including Prozac, kept her alive. She says, “Depression and anxiety are mental ILLNESSES. Not all illness can be cured with fresh air and sunshine. Sometimes chemical imbalances in the brain need to be supplemented. It may not be the answer for everybody, but it is definitely a life saver for some.”

She also acknowledges anti-depressants have their downfalls and that perhaps, we can do better with how they’re dispensed, and to whom. “Are meds overprescribed? Possibly. Can simple lifestyle changes improve our mental and physical health? Certainly. Should a drug that could keep someone from wanting to die be described as “shit”? Never.”

Of the various ways a person could handle their mood disorder, Chiu writes that she’s “proud,” no matter how they do it. Proud of those who need medication and talk to their doctors about it. Proud of those who manage their mental illness without meds or are considering weaning from or changing their medications. Proud of those who have an “arsenal” of tools for their mental health including “a combination of prescriptions, meditation, art therapy, exercise, sunshine, multiple yoga poses, and several flavors of gelato.”

She says, “If you continue to grace us all with your existence, I AM PROUD OF YOU…and I thank you.”

As someone who’s dealt with anxiety and depression on and off for years, trying various medications and coping methods, I’m thrilled to see Chiu standing up. For all of us. When I first tried anti-depressants, I was a young mother terrified of my new responsibilities and consumed by the fear that I’d one day die and leave my baby girl an orphan.

Before he understood how the medications could help, my husband told me I should try walking the baby at the park or joining a playgroup to distract myself. Meanwhile, I wasn’t sleeping and was suffering from panic attacks that got worse by the week. Medications definitely saved me in the end. And the absolute last thing someone in that position needs is the message that medications are “shit.”

A meme with such a harmful message being passed around social media can cause a person with mental health issues to feel shame for doing what they have to do to get by. And the fact that anyone would shame them is completely ridiculous. Do we tell people who need medication to manage high blood pressure or diabetes to “go outside” and feel better? Of course not. Mental illness is no different.

Indeed, Chiu likens the medications used to manage mood disorders to “a life preserver” saying that when you’re drowning and someone throws you one, you take it. She says to ignore those who say it’s “not the right size or color” or that it might not work. Just take it and hold on “like nobody’s business.”

And to those who tell you not to take that life preserver? Chiu closes saying, “If you accidentally kick them in the face while you’re paddling your way out of the stormy waters, no big deal…Tell them to go stop the bleeding with the warm breeze outside. I love you. Do whatever you need to stay with us.”

The fact is, medications can save lives. There’s absolutely no shame is taking them if you need them. Kudos to Chiu for calling out those who think otherwise.

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