At the beginning of my depression, many people could not understand why I was depressed. I came from a well-off family, was gifted as an athlete, a decent-looking guy, and had a 4.0 GPA at an Ivy League School. I supposedly checked all the boxes that equated to happiness, yet I still fell into a debilitating Major Depression for 8 years. I ended up dropping out of college, going on disability, penniless, and having thoughts of wanting to end my life.

A few comments people told me:
“Why don’t you choose to just be happier?”
“All you need is a good woman in your life and you will feel better.”
“I bet if you smiled more you would be happy.”
“Why do you want to stay depressed?”
My father even said, “You aren’t trying hard enough.” As if happiness was just about working harder.

I tried everything suggested to me and I still could not shake off my depression. It eventually took a multi-faceted approach that helped me to have more “happy” days than depressed ones.

For me, I could not just choose to be happy. Over the years from my personal experiences and meeting many other people battling depression, I have learned that mental health is a very large spectrum. The solution to helping depression is very individualized. For some people, the ability to be happy might be more in their control, while for others it requires therapy, medical treatment, rewiring their thinking, learning new skills, and large life changes.

What is one simple way you can help a person with depression?

When you see a stranger, friend, co-worker, neighbor, family member, or loved one struggling, I suggest showing compassion. It might not make them immediately happy, but it is one step to improving the moment.

Try saying, “I can see that you are struggling. How can I be helpful?” Or simply say, “I care about you.” If both feel too personal, just smile at the person and say, “Hi!” I knew someone that was walking to jump off a bridge to end his life. As he approached the bridge, a stranger smiled, made eye contact, and said, “Hi!” This made him feel a little less alone and he turned around to go to the ER. That stranger saved his life!

We all need to come together to lift each other up and educate ourselves on mental health.

Do you believe happiness is a choice?

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