Depression affects an estimated 7% of adults in the U.S. each year, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. But the reality is that those who suffer from this common disorder often feel alone in their struggle with unrelenting sadness and hopelessness.
Enter the viral hashtag #MyDepressionLooksLike: In an effort to combat the pervasive sense of isolation—and in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month—people are using it to paint a picture of their personal experiences with the disorder.
As psychiatrist and Health contributing editor Gail Saltz, MD, points out, the hashtag is an especially powerful use of social media: "Sharing your feelings about depression—and seeing others share—openly diminishes the stigma associated with mental health issues."
What's more, knowing there are others who truly understand what you're going through can be incredibly helpful, adds Dr. Saltz. "It gives you hope to see others persevere and get better, and gives you ideas for ways to get treatment."
But even for people who don't suffer from the disorder, these tweets are building important awareness, about how the symptoms manifest in everyday life. "Everyone needs to recognize the signs [of depression]," says Dr. Saltz, so you can encourage a friend or family member to seek help when you see a problem and they don't. Depression affects judgment, she explains, so a person's ability to recognize her own symptoms may be impaired.
Below, check out more of the brave and illuminating tweets.