by Chuck Ruby, Ph.D.
Including "Blue Monday" in the title of this article in The Sun and briefly mentioning it in the first few paragraphs is a way to grab the attention of readers. But in a bait and switch ploy, the bulk of this article reveals the real intention is to spread the propaganda that depression is an illness. Let me assure readers, depression is not a mental "illness".
In trying to distinguish depression from "common and totally normal" sadness, this article describes it as an "immense feeling of sadness that can last for weeks and maybe even months." So, we are told depression isn't just sadness, it is really, really sad sadness. Yet nowhere are we shown the evidence that it is an illness.
For decades, attempts have been made by the mental health industry to prove the brain-pathology basis of depression. Despite the billions of public dollars invested in this research, no such evidence of brain pathology has been discovered. The only thing this research has shown is that our experiences and behaviors are mirrored by changes in the brain. This is something we already knew. Yet, instead of giving up the search and redirecting those monies to more worthy research of real diseases, the mental health industry repeats the worn out pronouncement that discovery is just around the corner! Ironically, if such a discovery came, wouldn't depression then fall within the medical specialty of neurology, the real medical specialty that studies real brain illnesses?
We are also told in this article, "Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They're wrong - it is a real illness with real symptoms." This is the set up: present a false dichotomy straw man argument with those who believe depression is an illness on one side and those who think it is trivial on the other (I don't know of anyone who thinks it is trivial). This doesn't represent ISEPP's critique, nor many others' critiques, of the conventional medical model view of depression. It falsely categorizes those of us who say depression is not a real illness as people who think it is a trivial matter.
Nothing can be further from the truth, but it is the typical way those in power try to discredit organizations like ours and perpetuate the myth. ISEPP considers depression serious and potentially dangerous. But we see it for what it is: a natural and expected human reaction to intense emotional pain, not a sign of brain pathology. There is absolutely no evidence it is caused by real biological defects of the brain. Therefore, medical interventions, such as the prescription of chemicals and sending electrical currents through the brain, are not the answer.
In truth, depression is an insidious strategy adopted in an attempt to escape painful emotions. This is done in various ways such as remaining in bed, not answering the phone, not eating, not leaving the house, and generally trying to back out of life and to shut down. All these are attempts to sooth through escape.
The problem with the strategy of depression is that it doesn't work, other than in the very short term. Remaining in bed, for instance, can be very soothing. But once you wake up, your life is still there, and you might also now feel guilty and lethargic about having stayed in bed all day. As another example, turning down a social engagement provides immediate relief, but in the long run this can also lead to feelings of guilt and increasing social isolation. In short, the paradox of depression is that while it is intended to soothe, it actually adds more emotional pain to life, from which further and further attempts to escape are made, spiraling the person down into despair.
The answer to depression is in allowing emotions to be felt and "heard”, sometimes with the help of so-called professionals but sometimes just with the aid of an understanding friend. The process can be a long one, and it certainly isn't fixed by simplistic mechanical or chemical interventions. Emotions are how humans know what is important. The brain evolved to react to certain significant situations such as loss (sadness) and danger (fear). We experience these emotions when those things are happening and it is important to heed the messages, not avoid them.
This article is just one of thousands of others spread across the internet, which perpetuate the myth of mental illness. It is time to think critically about how basic human struggles have been inappropriately medicalized and subjecting people to the inhumane and harmful mental health industry.