Friday, June 30, 2006

Depression - Still A Lot To Learn - By Michael Russell

We accept that illness is part of our daily lives. Colds and flu, cuts and bruises.

All these are taken within our stride. Curative potions, prescribed and otherwise, are taken and within a few days we are all back to normal ready to face the world. We have this acceptance because it is something that is tangible. Life is nice and simple as we look at these minor ailments. Everyone has had them at one time or another so it's part of life.

What about depression? The word itself, particularly when used with regard to an illness, sends a shudder down the spines of most folk. Some would say that it is a disease of the 90s, something that television and the like, too much this, not enough of that and perhaps only confined to those in our community who have - what shall we say - some mental problem. It is so easy to dismiss this illness. We can then forget it and think of things a little more pleasant. What we don't understand can certainly make us feel that way.

It's all very easy to dismiss this very harrowing and distressing illness, for it is an illness, not a condition. Some of our community, although seeming physically fit, appear to be carrying the worries of the world on their shoulders. They find it impossible to cope with the normal pressures that the rest of us comfortably deal with in the course of our daily lives.

It is not meant to be patronising to call them poor people. It is merely gratitude for one not having the illness and pity, yes pity, that fellow human beings have to suffer such torment. Luckily nowadays there is some relief with medication that is available. It is however small compensation for the anguish that must be caused by this awful malady.

It is quite easy to remember the days when someone had an "off day" - due to what we now know as depression - to hear their close ones say "Buck yourself up - you'll be OK tomorrow". That was the diagnosis and cure for depression principally because not enough was known about the reason why it happens. We read of a blackness and inner torment that travels with it, unfortunately encouraging self harm in some cases.

Society now appears to be much more tolerant. It seems that a little knowledge does go a long way. People, who before seemed aloof and rude at times, with medical help and the correct medication, can now live a content and peaceful life, free from the demons that depression inevitably brings.

Depression hasn't just happened in the last 15 years though. It surely must have been around for an incredible number of years. Does that mean that it has increased in intensity because of the type of lifestyle we lead, or does it mean that we simply shunned our lesser fortunate acquaintances because we felt there was something "odd" about them?

It is more likely to be the latter. It was far easier to think of someone as not quite the same as everyone else and reject them accordingly, which is what we normally do with things or people we don't understand, than approach them and try to help them conquer their personal battles.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Depression

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