Depression: What The Mentally Ill Know

October 4, 2013 Paulissa Kipp

In this age of awareness and enlightenment, mental health awareness still generates a great deal of ignorance. Sometimes, even well-meaning statements perpetuate stigma, even on sites that seek to eradicate said stigma. Recently, the poster below came across my news feed from several mental health and depression pages. The depression quote is attributed to Mark Epstein, an American psychologist. While Mr. Epstein's credentials seemingly qualify him to speak knowledgeably on the subject, I do strenuously disagree with this quote's assertion.

As one of the nearly 57.7 million (National Institute of Mental Health) persons affected by mental illness, I will tell you what I and others like me know and it is not only the darkness and ruts of depression.

The depressed learn chemistry and pharmacology, necessary knowledge to advocate for proper medication or treatment.

The depressed study psychology in order to work with or to refute mental health theories, practices and at times, to justify firing a therapist or doctor. The depressed become educators of strangers, loved ones and peers. The depressed know what passionate self-care is, what care plans are, how to minimize triggers and how to find what is right with themselves in order to face another day and to seek the light. The depressed know about insurance and Obama care because we need to know how they will affect our ability to receive treatment. Oh. . .how the depressed know depression and its dirty little secrets. We have to know how to pet the dragon so we can maintain our depression recovery.

Mental health is about more than just depression.

The depressed are more than just depression. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, PhDs, first responders and so much more. The depressed are your friends, neighbors, loved ones, fellow church members, coworker and humans. The depressed play, love, raise families and contribute to society in ways that are immeasurable. We know ourselves. As a result, we offer our light to the world. Simply because our lives are impacted by depression does not mean that is the only aspect of life that we know.

National Institute of Mental Health

APA Reference
Kipp, P. (2013, October 4). Depression: What The Mentally Ill Know, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Paulissa Kipp

Frank Jude
June, 16 2015 at 10:12 am

I think the comments above properly draw attention to the misunderstanding evidenced by the author of this post. Additionally, it may be helpful to know -- or remember -- that Mark Epstein is also a teacher of buddhist meditation and he has been a wonderful advocate for practitioners afflicted by clinical depression. Among that community, there has long been some shame around depression and medication. Practitioners often feel that medication is somehow "cheating" or a sign of failure in their practice. Just today, I had a student who is dealing with depression express shame at the thought of needing medication, saying, "I know I should just be observing and feeling it."
What I reminded her of is another Epstein teaching, paraphrasing: In order to practice with depression there needs to be the space in order to do so. Otherwise, all there is is the depression. Medication creates the space in order to breathe with it.

Jennifer Bumsted
October, 10 2013 at 12:10 am

Well said,Brannon. A someone who has experienced depression nearly my whole life, I have to be reminded that the depression does not define me. I am not merely a "depressed person," but a person battling depression. I battle because I am strong and intelligent. I try to be ever mindful- aware of the emotions I experience, not allowing those emotions to define me. A wonderful resource for me has been "Don't Let Your Emotions Run Your Life" by Scott Spradlin.

Kathleen Brannon
October, 9 2013 at 8:41 am

All your points about what depressed people "know" are well taken. But aren't you addressing a different statement than Mr. Epstein's? He seems to me to be restating the familiar: "You are more than your illness." He is simply saying that what you see when you look at yourself during a severe depression is not really your "self" but what your depression tells you about yourself.
As a statement, it is unfortunately open to misinterpretation. But the message as intended is accurate, helpful and hopeful in my book. You are misapplying his statement about those in the throes of severe depression to those sufficiently recovered from to do and "know" all the things you describe.
In any case, thank you for reminding us of our capabilities.
He is saying when depressed people look for their "selves" all they see is their depression -- but this is an illusion caused by depression itself. In fact, depression has not obliterated their "selves."
that depressed people feel their "selves" have disappeared into their depression -- but that that thinking is a symptom or consequence of their depression, not the truth.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paulissa Kipp
October, 9 2013 at 1:17 pm

I appreciate your thoughts on the topic. I believe that when a mental health professional such as Mr. Epstein (a trained psychiatrist) makes such a statement, those who are struggling are not likely to interpret the quote as you do. That's the thing about quotes and soundbites - they are very open to interpretation. I don't think it is reasonable to state that another's interpretation of such a statement is either right or wrong: it is that person's truth in that given moment. How exactly do we know what Epstein is saying or what he intended when he made the statement? Without a source that provides further context from Mr. Epstein, we cannot look into Mr. Epstein's intent.

Jenny Peters
October, 4 2013 at 10:58 pm

I would love to reach out to anyone who is dealing with childhood/teenage sex abuse by a stepfather. Please e-mail me.
Jenny Peters

Leave a reply