Chuck Ruby, Ph.D.
Consumer Reports recently published an article reporting the results of research about how face-to-face interaction reduces the chance of depression in the elderly. There are two problems with this article.
First, the article makes it seem that elderly people are at higher risk of developing “mental illness”, in this case, depression. The problem with this is that the experiences they have as they approach the end of their lives, typically encountering health failures and the deaths of their peers, would reasonably lead to sadness and fear. Sometimes these emotions are so great that they trigger the shutting down of depression in an attempt to soothe. But this is natural, it is not an illness. It is also something I think most reading this article would already know.
Second, the article concludes with a call for screening. Screening for so-called “mental illnesses” is dangerous for two reasons: 1) it is well-known that such screening has large “false positives”; and 2) those identified by screening will then be subjected to the onslaught of the mental health industry, usually consisting of the prescription of toxic psychiatric chemicals that do nothing but sedate and chemically straightjacket.
In the case of low base rate occurrences, like depression, even the best and most precise screening tools will result in a large number of people who are not depressed nevertheless being identified as such. The screening is likely to cause concern in these non-depressed people, convincing them to see a doctor, effectively pulling them into that harmful psychiatric pipeline.
Those among us who are entering the final years will be helped with understanding and a meaningful, not medical, attempt to assuage the anguish.