Depression transcends cultures, but cultural perceptions can change how depression takes its toll on an individual. Depending on a particular culture, you can find anything from different treatments to fundamentally different views on what depression actually is.
Pierce College hosts a culturally diverse student population and some shared their perspectives.
Elsa Diaz, 21, is a nursing major who has been attending Pierce for three years. Diagnosed with depression at the age of eight, Diaz had a hard time due to her father’s views on the nature of depression.
“My dad started working when he was five in Mexico,” Diaz says. “My dad would tell me that lazy people are depressed. That depression is only for the lazy, like that was my problem.”
The uneasiness some feel about depression can cause them to avoid acknowledging their feelings, or to try to hide them.
Tana Antalikova, 23, is from Ostrava in the Czech Republic. Antalikova describes a general sense of embarrassment about talking about one’s depression or seeking out professional help.
“A lot of people don’t because they feel embarrassed. They go more inward than outward,” Antalikova says. “Many people feel like if they go to a psychologist or a therapist that they’re crazy or something. They just feel so embarrassed and I don’t think they should.”
Nicolas Hermosilla, 21, is in his first semester at Pierce. He moved to the United States a little over a year ago from Chile.
“I don’t think that people would see [others] differently [if they were open about their depression],” Hermosilla says. “But I think there is a fear that people will think of them differently.”
According to 21-year-old accounting major Tamir Shechter, in his home country of Israel, the term dikaon is generally used to describe “feeling low.” Depression might be considered a severe form of dikaon.
“[In Israel] it’s more like society diagnoses you,” Shechter says. “Some people have [dikaon] and you try to cheer them up. Some people need to take medicine if it’s a severe dikaon.”
In Israel, he says, close friends won’t hesitate to take it upon themselves to help, but the older generation might be less inclined to get involved.
“People my age are more willing to help you, but if you talk to older people, then no,” Shechter says. “It’s like the older you are, the less people care, because they have their own lives and they think that you are adult enough [to handle it on your own].”
The views from older adults often come with the perception that there are worse things to be worried about than depression. Having a stressful life can make it difficult to acknowledge emotional conflicts as being important.
Diaz recalls her father’s way of comparing her depression to his own past hardships.
“He would tell me, ‘If you knew what it’s like to be hungry, or if you saw your mom crying because she didn’t even have tortillas to eat, then you wouldn’t have time to be depressed,’” she says. “He would tell me if you’ve never gone through anything like that, then you don’t know what it’s like to really suffer.”
Diaz has seen a therapist in the past, and she says the experience was helpful to her.
“I needed to tell people how I actually felt, because I used to be a people pleaser,” she says. “My therapist would tell me that if something is hurting your feelings, you need to tell that person, and you have to stand up for yourself. It was just a long process and eventually it worked.”