Depression is Society Taking the Wrong Approach

Major Depression has gotten a bad rap! There has been a well known stigma that has caused many to keep the suffering of depressive episodes to themselves. The general idea is close relationships or work relationships is to assign the toxic label of “craziness” or being over dramatic because depression is inconvenient for those who want something from the individual.

The pharmaceutical industry virtually redefined the illness in order to maximize profits. With the help of treating physicians, the pressure to treat major depression episodes with drugs that alter the brain chemistry was off the charts. It did not matter that no one knew exactly which chemical was out of balance with another chemical, or whether any kind of “balance” was ever achieved with drugs that had significant side effects.

Antidepressants were billed as the easy fix, so the push was on. There was aggressive pressure to take the drugs from both the pharmaceutical industry and the medical industry. This attitude spread to general society, where many assumed that the drugs were a sure cure and that a person need not suffer from depression. To aggravate the situation, many only visited the psychiatrist to check the dosages and the progress and were not getting talk therapy that is an effective and ongoing treatment option.

The problem is that there are major depressive episodes that usually resolve, so why the need to stay constantly dosed up on medicine that was, at best, a guess? That question did not alleviate the medical and societal pressure to take the drugs, which developed into somewhat of a moral and social imperative. 

Thanks to celebrities and other public figures coming out of the closet about their depression, society has found that some of the most accomplished people in history have managed to live incredibly productive lives and are not “crazy”. Celebrities tend to have access to the latest and greatest in both traditional and alternative medicine and they have revealed a lot about treating depression through alternatives to drugs. Exercise, talk therapy, managing allergies, managing diet and other therapies were shown to provide help.

Many times, a person is having symptoms but is afraid to talk about them until someone else describes the same symptoms and talks about the conditions that the symptoms represent. Society is now allowing people to talk about their depression, which helps others to examine and to speak up about their own issues.

The drug industry is beginning to cut back or to abandon the risky and costly process of developing and pushing antidepressant drugs and drug therapies. There is still research, but there are no true “magic bullets”, except for the suggestive effect. In the suggestive effect, if people are told that they are getting better…they show signs of getting better! This is a big breakthrough for talk therapists, but is it a breakthrough for society?

Getting therapy is still highly stigmatized. Anyone who is a witness or participant in a court proceeding, is up for a job, wants to run for office and so on will be under the threat of having their therapy and depression used to impeach their character and to question their ability to function. Society has to do much better to encourage people to get the best quality of clinical and other therapy that they need, not matter what the form of depression, rather than punishing those who do so.

Clive Cookson and Andrew Jack, “Depression Industry In A Slump”, CNN, 15 June 2010