The Young Feller told me today about a couple of surveys they'd had to fill in lately in their workplace (I remember being sent similar ones when I was a public servant about being a GenXer). A woman told him that a week or so after doing these, she received a phone call at work from a doctor. The doctor said that her results indicated that she was suffering from depression, and that if she didn't do something about it, this state might lead to permanent changes in her brain.
I said to the Young Feller, 'I don't know whether I think that's a massive invasion of her privacy.'
I presume it's part of some Territory or nationwide strategy for combatting the epidemic of depression and that she probably gleefully ticked some privacy-invading clause at the beginning. This incident suggests to me how prevalent and maybe also how weird the discourse on depression is becoming.
The woman said to the doctor who rang that she didn't want to do anything about her 'depression', thank you very much. She explained that she was going through a painful divorce, that she expected times immediately ahead to be rough sailing, but that ultimately she'd pull through without any inalterable changes to her brain.
As I said to the Young Feller, 'I seem to remember a time when you were allowed to be depressed, particularly when things went wrong. Nowadays, if you aren't happy, people are ready to cart you off to therapy or to dose you up to the eyeballs with the latest designer drug.'
The Young Feller, perhaps with his own brand of boyish, stoical ex-Catholicism, suggested that depression was on the rise because people were simply 'too self-absorbed these days.'
I recently read Gail Bell's quarterly essay, The Worried Well, on the contemporary depression culture (then gave it to someone else to read, so I wont be able to quote directly here). I quite enjoy Bell's writing; she's a chemist and pharmacist who's written about poisons (The Poison Principle) and PTSD (Shot). Her suggestion is that there's a cross-section of people (loosely described as 'mildly to moderately' depressed) who are possibly being prescribed anti-depressants when they don't really need them, as distinguished from a genuinely defined serious depression. She relates this to a collusion between doctors, drug companies/pharmacists and patients, and suggests that all these parties need to examine their motives in feeding the demand for anti-depressants. She suggests the increasing dependency on anti-depressants often stems from some expectation or sense of entitlement about how life should be (I think I made this point much earlier in this blog in a post titled 'the value of gloom' that I can't be bothered to find now, re: utilitarian social assumptions) and that we would do well to take on board some of the 'string-saving' stoical ethos of our grandparents. Bell also details the ill effects of anti-depressants, the tendency of brain chemistries to adapt even inalterably to them, and so forth.
There have been some interesting articles in the New Yorker this year (I think by Malcolm Gladwell) about the value of stoicism and how stoicism and even denial should be viewed as valuable defences, I think with some eg's of previous generation's use of stoicism to deal with PTSD, the possible overuse of modern trauma counselling and so forth...scab-picking and rumination are not to be encouraged! 'Stoicism' I guess could be re-packaged as a brand of 'resilience', given the latter's popularity these days. I'm a bit divided about this stuff (as I think Bell is also), as the 'string savers' certainly had their excesses too. One distinction she retrieves is that rang bells for me (with my past history of reading much psychobabel in my late teens and early twenties) is that of 'exogenous' and 'endogenous' depression -- that depression could have internal and external sources. Following from this, you were considered to be properly depressed and in need of help when you were in a 'morbid state' -- i.e. when the depression had run on for too long and you were stuck. Which to me seems to be a commonsense distinction, recognised by the woman in the anecdote at the beginning of this post, who thought the bad stuff was external and would ultimately run its course.
I guess the CBT-ites might have a problem with all that; I seem to remember that in the CBT book by David Burns I read (recommended by a therapy junkie friend), even mild states of depression are disavowed. Burns warns that people who are often 'mildly depressed' (which could included 'natural pessimists' such as myself) can be harder to change than people in states of severe depression. But is this such a worry, particularly if they're not endangering their health? I think there's a place for natural Ee-yore's such as myself -- pleasures may be short-lived and tarnished, but you're never surprised when things go wrong! And being gloomy can be a valuable and productive time for taking stock -- perhaps that's the origin of the phrase 'having some downtime'.
Anyway, I've probably said enough about this subject already, and I'm a bit wary of deliberating on in some way that might be insensitive and discouraging to depressed people...so go and read Gail Bell's The Worried Well if you're interested. Much of what she says is speculative and anecdotal (and she'd probably agree with me on that), but the essay is interesting and insightful and not without useful possibilities.
P.S. The all-pervasiveness of the depression discourse was evidenced recently in this blog when the alacrity of the blogger in suggesting to the vets that her cats might need cat-prozac because they were stressed was described. In a subsequent conversation with a vet yesterday, he explained there was no more evidence that cat-prozac was effective in stopping over-grooming and other anxious behaviours than the anti-biotics that were previously given (they now believe there are no bacteria implicated in feline idiopathic cystitis). But Leonard was a star at the vet yesterday; I took him to have his teeth scaled under anasthetic and when I went to retrieve him later in the afternoon, the girl at reception was raving about what a 'beautiful' and 'gorgeous' cat he was, and how she had been 'sneaking pats' with him all day. Who knows what kind of sluttish behaviours he exhibited once the anaesthetic started wearing of!