The best thing that could happen to us depressives in America is for perky Katie Couric to, well, get depressed. Not that I wish that "black dog," as Winston Churchill called this disease, on anyone. But in America, a nation that worships get-up-and-go and a can-do attitude, Katie's slide into sluggishness and helplessness could be a game-changer in how depression is viewed and treated.
Okay, the media, such as Jane Brody's article on depression in the over-65 in today's THE NEW YORK TIMES, is always throwing articles out there on depression. Mike Wallace, "60 Minutes" icon, admitted that depression can be so dark a state that he attempted suicide. And there are commercials on TV depicting depression as a comprehensive malady that requires and responds to help ("Where does depression hurt").
But, just try being depressed in America, the land of high-school cheerleaders and the everyday pace of go-go-go.
"Move around," my mother said when I returned home for college depressed. "Exercise more," commanded the psychologist at, get this, the Psych Clinic at the University of Michigan, where I attended grad school. "You're always so down," observed a fellow member in a 12-step support program, yeah, for jumbled emotions.
No wonder we depressives attempt to go to extraordinary lengths just to conceal our condition.
So, what does America need to do to be more understanding of this affliction, which the world of psychiatry is just coming to admit it really doesn't have a handle on?
- Leave us alone, unless you know what you're talking about and that what you're talking about has proven out to be helpful to depressives.
- If you can't leave us alone, e.g. you are our employer or a significant other, learn about this strange malady. There's plenty on the Internet. And, from experience I've found, that it is helpful to push us to get treatment. My one-time significant other said, "You're depressed. Your current medication isn't working. To live together, you need to see a mental-health expert who can help you. This one doesn't seem to be able to get you turned around." He was right. I changed doctors, medication and did well for a few years.
- Like diabetes, many forms of depression are chronic. As my medical doctor told me 31 months ago when I crawled into his office, w/o an appointment, since I had two depressive episodes, I'm bound to have more. He advised I stay on the Zolot long-term, and for 31 months I'm been, you got it, downright perky.
- When you have a hunch you may be depressed, call your insurance provider for what coverage is available for mental-health issues and a list of providers. No health insurance? Look in the yellow pages under "Community mental health" centers. Many have free or sliding-scale treatment. Push to get in, pronto. Too depressed to negotiate all this? Call 911 or a cab to the local emergency room. Yeah, this is serious stuff.