ONLY Exercise for treating depression? NO!!!

Today I received in my email a request for me to use an infographic on my blog. They stated that I would be interested because of important information on fighting depression……without pills.

What the infographic contained was information that said this in a nutshell: Depression can be managed simply by regular exercise such as running or any aerobic activity, yoga and getting out in the sun. It stated that running releases increased amounts of endorphins which elevates mood and you get a “runner’s high.” Also getting out in the sunshine improves mood as well.

They showed comparisons of people that do aerobic exercise only, or medication only, and a group that did the exercise and medication. It stated that the people that exercised and took medication for depression had no more improvement with their depression than the groups that only did the exercise.

I emailed them that I am refusing to put this on my blog because I have big problems with this information and the impact that it can have on people.

Yes, exercise of any sort is good for you, and running, etc. does increase endorphins. Getting out in the sun does elevate mood. These things are good for anyone to do even if they don’t suffer depression. But this infographic implies that you can so simply manage depression just by doing things and gives the implication that medication for depression is bad. Nowhere on this infographic does it say that someone should seek medical attention for depression at all. Just do all those things and you should be able to battle it yourself.

I’m aware that some people manage low moods with these activities and it helps so much they don’t have to take medication. But to say that you can battle depression with exercise and sunshine only is a very dangerous thing to tell people. It leads people to think that getting medication is a bad thing and they should be strong enough to conquer it without the help of a doctor and/or medication and/or counseling.

My daughter Kaitlyn was an avid runner. She ran marathons. Also every other day she was at the gym working out. She was out in the sun much of the time (as evidenced by the freckles on her face as she lay in her casket) and she ate healthily. She did all these things and obviously doing these things did not prevent her depression from becoming severe and leading to her suicide. These things may have eased her mood to a degree for a time. I don’t think the only reason she did these things was to be a good weight and be physically fit…..I think she did these things in large part to fight her depression and she thought she could fight it all on her own. So I take great offense and am horrified that people go around giving information that can motivate people not to seek medical attention for depression.

I will be the first to tell you that medication is not always a sure bet. Sometimes what they give you does not work, or works for a while then quits working, or has side effects that cause you not to be able to take it. But there are times that one or more is found to treat the illness well and it works from then on. There is still much work to be done on trying to combat depression. But at least if you do take the medicine there is hope for you to come out alive in the end and to lead a normal life. Not always, but most of the time. I would take the chance of having a good chance at helping my depression instead of not taking the medication and risking dying of suicide.

I’m also not saying that some things can’t be managed without medicine. Sometimes when the doctor first discovers someone has diabetes, they will put the patient on a diabetic diet and tell them to exercise. I’ve seen many people that have managed their diabetes successfully like that. Some people if they are hypertensive, they only have to lose weight and exercise to get their blood pressure back to normal and never have to go on medication if it is well managed this way. But nowhere have I seen information telling people that all they have to do are these things to manage these illnesses. Sometimes these methods don’t work and they have to go on medication.

I’m not a doctor or have a PhD or anything like that. I am an RN and know general information about mental illness and the chemicals in our brain that control mood. I also have experience in depression because I have it. (Many a time I have sat on the bench in the locker room of the fitness club I had a membership to and went to regularly, and thinking of wanting to die). I also, worst of all, have the horrible experience of losing a daughter to suicide that never sought help, never took medications, and never told anyone. She did all these exercises and she still died. So I wish with all my heart that information like this person sent me would cease to exist because it is misleading and dangerous. If I had seen mentioned on it somewhere that if this method did not work in a short period of time to seek medical attention, I would feel a little better about it. But this was not mentioned at all. Some people reading that will no doubt think that if they get out and do more and run and all that is listed on that infographic that they will be cured. Unfortunately, some of those people may die at their own hands because they think they should have been able fight it on their own and most of the time that is not true.

By all means, get out there and run, get out there in the sunshine, but if you suffer depression or any mental illness of any kind, please also go to the doctor. Tell someone that can get you help.



About gatito2

My name is Rhonda. I'm a registered nurse, for the last 20 years, that has not been able to work since the day I learned of my daughter's death by suicide 4-12-13. (She actually died 4-11-13 and her body was not found until the 12th) Me and my husband have been married for 32 years and he's a wonderful man. We grieve in different ways. He works, I write. This is my journey through this horrible land of losing a child..
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14 Responses to ONLY Exercise for treating depression? NO!!!

  1. Uncle Spike says:

    Have to agree with you Rhonda. I’m no doctor either, nor do I have any specialist eduction or even much knowledge on the subject, but such a singular approach is nonsensical at best. Sure, I agree that for many mildly ‘depressed’ in modern day life, there is much that can be done through self-help, exercise and changing one’s way of life etc., but surely, when the brain has a chemical imbalance as severe as in those with real clinical depression, to say the drugs are not at least ‘part’ of the solution seems a wholly dangerous and irresponsible thing to come out with..


  2. Marie says:

    I agree. Exercise definitely helps. And some can manage depression without meds. But many, if not most (i.e. those with severe depression) need medication. The chemical imbalance cannot just be taken away from a runners high and some vitamin D. I wrote something similar about people telling people to get off psych meds a week or so ago. Frustrating! I am sorry about the loss of your daughter.


  3. Thank you for your honesty and not putting some bogus ad on your blog that may injure people. Exercise without a doctor’s ok is never any good. I wish that i was able to exercise but I cannot due to physical pain (long story). But I have to be on medication for my horrible depressions. I have realized this since I was 16. there is no escaping it.


  4. gatito2 says:

    Thank you. I went to your blog last night and it is really informative with very good posts. I bookmarked it even.


  5. gatito2 says:

    No, I wasn’t about to put something like that on my blog. I think that misinformation is horrible. Like I wrote, exercise is a good thing but most major depression cannot be treated that way only. I know that just from my own experience and from my daughter.


  6. gatito2 says:

    Thank you Spike. I think it’s a dangerous thing to promote as well.


  7. Sd1187 says:

    You are absolutely right. Although exercise has been proven to AID in treatment of depression, it is not an answer for everyone, an answer for severe depression, or an alternative to seeking help to obtain counseling and/or medication. It is so frustrating that others still try to reinforce the stigma that seeking pharmacotherapy for depression (or medical help at all) is unnecessary. You are correct in that not only can this mislead people, but it also teaches depressed individuals that they should be able to conquer it on their own.

    Like I mentioned almost 2 months ago. Kaitlyn’s story is the driving force that helped me finally seek medication for my depression that I should have done a long time ago. I kept believing that I had to be perfect and push through it on my own or at least only be willing to consider counseling, but I finally sought medication just before starting residency because of your blog and book. It is very likely that her tragic story and your promotion of seeking help saved my life. The medication is not a magic happy pill, and it’s not for everyone of course, but is helping me in a way that I could have never imagined. It is helping me help myself is what I would say. I become hurt when others, even some of my loved ones, are skeptical about the necessity of me having started an antidepressant or encourage the idea that I should just stay on it very short term because they think that I’m so “smart and wonderful” and “capable” and that I shouldn’t think there is something wrong with me. I know that they mean well are are trying to tell me that I don’t need to try to be perfect, I was already wonderful the way I was, and I don’t need to take a medication so that I can change; however, this attitude is what reinforces the idea that I SHOULD be able to conquer depression on my own, that it is weak for me to seek help, or the idea that I shouldn’t be depressed in the first place. The most amazing support has come from those who tell me that they are so happy that I am getting help and that I am doing the right thing, which helps me trust my decision and therefore feel hopeful and, consequently, already receive some placebo-type effect from simply STARTING the medication! Although I don’t plan on being on it long term, I am open to the possibility that it can become necessary- it needs to be seen as okay, though, for people to be on medication for depression for short term or long term. Sorry for the rant! Just trying to convey my gratitude towards your help and your attitude!


  8. gatito2 says:

    It’s posts like yours that make me feel good about the things that I write. You have no idea how happy it makes me that Kaitlyn’s story was the catalyst for your getting the help that you need. The statistics for medical students and depression are alarming and people don’t know about this generally. I didn’t. That’s not to even say anything about physician depression and suicide which is also alarming. And deaths from depression are usually a result of these people not feeling like it’s ok to get treatment because they are held to such an impossible standard. They are so brilliant and strong that people don’t think they ever need help and the stigma is horrible. If more people felt freer to get help, less suicides would happen.

    Yes, the infographic I mentioned reinforces the reason why people don’t seek help in the first place. It makes someone think they should just be able to fix themselves with these methods. It implies that medication is bad. That is such a horrible thing to promote.

    People just do not understand that just because you are brilliant, driven, successful and doing one of the hardest courses of study in the world, that you could possibly ever be depressed. People that have not had experience with depression themselves do not understand this. They are clueless. Even though they mean well with all their pep talks and “you have no reason to be depressed” it still perpetuates why one does not seek help. It’s told to them they don’t have a reason to be depressed and then they say the wrong things that make it so much worse. And then you believe it. People need to be educated on what real depression really is and maybe they will understand but there is a LONG way to got before making this happen for many people.

    I am so glad that you are getting the help you need. You probably saved your life.

    And rant all you want!! I love rants. I rant all the time. 🙂

    I wish the very best for you for the rest of your life.


  9. AnnetteM says:

    I am wondering who it was that put out that email promoting those ideas when they don’t appear to have anything to gain from it. Is it perhaps some sports body who wants to encourage people to take out gymn membership? I hope you told them in no uncertain terms the reasons you wouldn’t put the infographic on your blog – if not you should sent them the link to the above post and comments.


  10. gatito2 says:

    I also wondered what someone would have to gain by putting this info out there. They are not selling anything. It was a very nice looking grapic that had all this information I stated in my post along with pictures and everything. Here is the email I sent back to them. “Though I respect what you are doing and the message you are trying to convey, I have a problem with it. Though most of what you say is true; exercise does increase endorphins which help increase our mood along with sunlight and the other things, I do not in any way believe that if someone has a problem with depression, that simply by doing all the things you listed that it will help depression enough that they will not need treatment by pills or counseling.

    Here’s one reason why I think so. My daughter was 23. She was a runner and ran every other day and went to the gym the other days religiously. She ate very healthy foods (she did not go hungry, but ate healthily). I think she started doing these things so she could fight her depression (that she hid from us all) on her own. My daughter had the willpower of someone that I have never seen before. She had always conquered everything by herself, why not this? Even with ALL that she did, and suffering the depression that we had no clue of, she wound up killing herself 4-11-13. Only in her suicide note did we find out she was depressed all this time. My daughter never told anyone, never sought help, never took pills or anything but did do the things that you say that all is needed to fight depression

    What I would agree in is that ALONG WITH seeking help from a psychiatrist, and IF he agrees a person needs meds and counseling, is for them to do that BUT add the exercise and all that to that treatment.

    So I can’t put that on my blog because I don’t agree with it. What you are doing is reaffirming in people’s minds that they don’t have to take meds for depression, that they can fight it themselves, and that is a very dangerous message to be giving to anyone.

    I’m not meaning to be hurtful with my reply, but I feel strongly that if a doctor thinks you need medication for depression that you need to take them.

    Thank you,


  11. gatito2 says:

    BTW, the pic of the pills, doctor and man on this post was not from the infographic. I just made it on my Publisher just to have a little visual.


  12. AnnetteM says:

    That is brilliant! You couldn’t read that and not be convinced. I do hope it is read by a real person. I wonder if you will get a reply.


  13. gatito2 says:

    I haven’t gotten a reply yet and probably won’t.


  14. I’m wondering if you can “report” them somewhere because it is dangerous and very misleading.


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