Published: May 21, 2008
Some words are asked to do too much. "Love" is what you feel for ice cream
and your life partner. "God" is a multipurpose interjection or the creator
of the universe. In "Depression: Out of the Shadows," a stark documentary on
/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Andrew Solomon, who won a National Book Award
for his book about depression, makes his own nomination for this grouping.
"It's a poverty of the English language," he says, "that we only have that
one word, depression, that's used to describe how a little kid feels when it
rains on the day of his baseball game, and it's also used to describe why
people spend their lives in mental hospitals and end up killing themselves."
The word may be tossed around casually, but through the stories of an
assortment of people like Mr. Solomon (the author of "The Noonday Demon: An
Atlas of Depression"), who have battled the condition or lost loved ones to
it, this program makes clear just how devastating clinical depression is.
"Suicide is almost twice as common as homicide in the United States," Thomas
R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, says bluntly.
"We have roughly 30,000 suicides a year. And 90 percent of those are
associated with mental illness, most commonly depression."
Those to whom depression is just a vaguely defined condition may be
surprised by the variety of manifestations seen here: postpartum depression,
bipolar disease, late-onset depression, the mild but persistent depression
known as dysthymia. And, commendably, the filmmakers don't focus just on the
affluent whites who are the easiest subjects to line up for programs like
this; one segment looks at the particular problems depression presents for
the urban poor, and especially blacks.
"Many of us would rather tell somebody that we have a relative in jail or on
drugs before we will ever utter 'mental illness,' " says Terrie M. Williams,
a black public relations executive who has battled depression.
Programs like this always dangle promising medical advances as a counter to
the jarring personal stories, and "Out of the Shadows" is no exception. But
there's a surprise. One of the more effective treatments in some instances
is the seemingly primitive electroshock therapy. It is a tool, we're told,
that remains underused, and you can guess why: those memorable scenes from
the film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Out of the Shadows
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Depression Story - Andrew Solomon on PBS
Published: May 21, 2008
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