A terrible tweet about depression has the internet in an uproar.

J.K. Rowling and Patton Oswalt to the rescue.

On Sept. 7, 2017, kickboxer Andrew Tate tweeted that "depression isn't real."

"You feel sad, you move on," he wrote to his 26,000 fans and followers. "You will always be depressed if your life is depressing."

Andrew Tate is not a medical doctor, mental health professional, nor expert in any related field that would add weight to his (seemingly unsolicited) opinion on the subject. Yet, in a combative 13-part Twitter thread, the athlete argued his assertion is correct because he believes that people living with depression are simply "lazy" and will find any excuse to "absolve responsibilities" to feel better.


As is typically the case when you're a well-known person spouting falsehoods on an important subject online, people reacted — and fast.

Musician Alex Gaskarth noted making such ill-informed declarations without understanding the issue does harm to real people.

Entrepreneur Vikas Shah pointed out Tate's tweets reflect how stigma surrounding mental illness keeps people who are struggling from accessing care.

J.K. Rowling — who has butted heads with Tate on Twitter before — suggested the boxer's tweets say more about his own mental well-being than about the science behind depression.

Comedian Patton Oswalt, who lives with depression, blasted Tate's initial tweet as "false," claiming it reads more like an "energy drink tagline" than anything else.

Other users, like Josh Peterson, used the opportunity to spread awareness on the issue and share resources to access help, should anyone reading need them.

(You can check out the full list of Peterson's helpful links here.)

Tate shared his unfortunate tweet thread just a couple days before World Suicide Prevention Day, so what better time to follow Peterson's lead here and revisit the facts on what depression is and isn't?

Depression is unequivocally real.

Or, as the Cleveland Clinic puts it: "[Depression] is a medical problem, not a personal weakness." We'd never tell someone with cancer to simply think themselves into healing — why would we do so when it comes to depression?

Research shows a combination of faulty mood regulation by the brain, stressful life events, and genetics (among other factors) can all play a role in causing depression, Harvard Medical School emphasized. Contrary to Tate's assumptions, science has shown us that it's not a fleeting emotion; it's a real medical condition, and there's no real "cure" for it.

The good news is, seeking treatment does help millions of people manage and live happy lives, even with depression.

Many people routinely see therapists, use medications, and prioritize stress-relieving habits (like exercising or getting adequate sleep) that help them stay on top of their mental health.

If you're struggling, know that you're not alone. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression is a relatively common disorder: about 1 in every 6 American adults will experience depression at some point in their lives. Millions of people can relate to what you're going through, and many of them are ready to step in and help.

Treatments for mental illness like therapies or medicines (or a combination both) are lifesavers. If you want help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or visit the American Psychological Association to learn more.

Family

Whenever someone's words or behavior are called out as racist, a few predictable responses always follow. One is to see the word "racist" as a vicious personal attack. Two is to vehemently deny that whatever was said or done was racist. And three is to pull out the dictionary definition of racism to prove that the words or behavior weren't racist.

Honestly, as soon as someone refers to the dictionary when discussing racism, it's clear that person has never delved deeply into trying to understand racism. It's a big old red flag, every time.

I'm not an expert on race relations, but I've spent many years learning from people who are. And I've learned that the reality of racism is nuanced and complex, and resorting to a short dictionary definition completely ignores that fact. The dictionary can't include all of the ways racism manifests in individuals and society, and the limitations of dictionary definitions make it a poor tool for discussing the topic.

Since "racism" is such a loaded term for many people, let's look at such limitations through a different complex word. Let's take "anxiety." According to Merriam-Webster, "anxiety" is defined as "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill."

Now imagine thinking that you understand everything that encompasses anxiety from reading that dictionary definition. Imagine thinking you could recognize the signs of anxiety in someone based on that definition alone. Ridiculous, right? The dictionary doesn't explain that some people's anxiety manifests as anger, even though it does. It doesn't say that anxiety sometimes manifests as withdrawal or aloofness. It doesn't say that you often won't see obvious signs of fear or nervousness in someone experiencing anxiety.

The dictionary doesn't offer anything close to the reality of what anxiety is or looks like. It would be silly to say that someone isn't experiencing anxiety because they're not clearly showing signs of nervousness like the dictionary definition implies. Just as the dictionary definition of anxiety is not comprehensive, neither is the dictionary definition of racism. Yet people keep using it to "prove" that something or someone isn't racist.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume just pulled that trick on Twitter to try to back up his claim that Donald Trump's "go back to" statements to four Congresswomen of color weren't technically racist.


The first Merriam-Webster entry for "racism" reads "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Merriam-Webster

First of all, I'm not sure how this definition actually makes Trump's statements not racist. A belief is not always conscious, so even assuming that his racism is unconscious, a white man telling four women of color to "go back to" their countries of origin—despite three of them being born in the U.S. and the fourth being a naturalized citizen of the U.S.—is pretty objectively racist. No one knows exactly what is going on in the President's head, but such statements only being made to women of color would certainly be consistent with the behavior of someone with a belief in white people's inherent superiority.

But that simple definition isn't truly definitive, either. Shortly after Hume's tweet, Merriam-Webster pointed out a usage note for the word "racism," which clarifies that dictionaries do not provide the be-all-end-all definition of words.

Anti-racism advocates have tried time and time again to explain that racism is not as straightforward as someone saying, "I think I'm superior to people who don't share my skin color." Racism is almost never that blatant, and yet oodles of Americans refuse to call anything less than that kind of bold statement "racism." We have a long history showing exactly how white supremacy—the origin of racism in the U.S.—exerts itself in both strong and subtle ways, and thousands of hours and pages of education from experts describing how racism works on an individual and societal level. But people still insist on the simplistic narrative of "Racism=hating people of a different race."

I've seen many people, including Brit Hume, argue that the word racism has lost all meaning. Frankly, that's a copout. Racism—as both a conscious or unconscious belief of racial superiority and as a system of racial prejudice blended with power dynamics—has a broader meaning than one person hating another person for the color of their skin. But that doesn't make it meaningless.

I've also seen people complain that "everything is racist these days," but no, it's really not. We simply understand more about racism now, thanks to the field of race studies and to people of color offering their time and energy to explain it, so it's easier to identify in its various forms. In my experience, when someone's understanding of racism reaches a certain stage, they start recognizing it in places where ignorance or unconscious bias may have caused them to miss it in the past. That's not imagining racism where it doesn't exist or "calling everything racist these days"; that's simply seeing reality more clearly.

When you really dive deep into the historical, psychological, and sociological reality of racism in America, it becomes painfully obvious that racism is far more prevalent and enmeshed in our society than most people think. Until defensive, mostly-white folks stop automatically denying racism every time the word is used and stop throwing around dictionaries to avoid having to do that deep dive work, we're not going to make real headway on this issue.

Let's stop pretending that the definition and supposed overuse of the word "racism" is the problem, when the problem is racism, period.

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