Friday, August 17, 2007

Depression - reality not myth

After yesterday's rather light and lively entry, I was brought back to earth with a bump this morning by reading the latest media reports of comments from Professor Gordon Parker of the University of South Wales.

In short, Professor Parker - with every good intention - has been quoted as saying that depression is overdiagnosed in the world today and that it is normal to feel down in the dumps from time to time. He also adds a warning about overmedicalisation.

On the one hand, I agree with what he says - we can be told to pop a pill when what we need is support to face our problems.

But notice I say "support". For what worries me about Professor Parker's statement is that, as reported in the media, it can seem to play down depression in a way that will deny sufferers support. Headlines such as "The myth of depression" just add to an already existing attitude that views depressive illness as trivial, all in the mind and something that you can simply 'get over' - and deprioritises mental health charities as a result.

Clinical depression is to a down mood as a raging migraine is to a slight headache. It is a real, painful, mind-altering condition that can drive its sufferers to the point of suicide - and beyond.

So yes, by all means let's ride with - and learn from - a dip in happiness that lasts a day or so in the wake of a real-life disappointment or setback.

But let's not demean the condition of depression - or its sufferers - by labelling it a myth.

For help with depression, see your GP or contact Depression Alliance.

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