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Time To Boycott National Depression Screening Day
October 4, 2006
by Tony Zizza

"In any year, nearly 10% of the U.S. population suffers from depression."
--Lyric Wallwork Winik, "The True Cost of Depression", PARADE Intelligence Report for 10/1/06

I don't know where Lyric Wallwork Winik got the above noted statistic for this PARADE Intelligence Report, but it's flat out wrong and bogus. You see, whenever National Depression Screening Day rears its ugly head in the mainstream media every first week in October, we have the opportunity to review some serious doublethink that does not change much with each passing year. The mainstream media keeps rehashing these unintelligent themes:

  • Depression causes $100 billion in lost productivity every year
  • There is still a severe stigma against those who say they are depressed
  • 80% of people who have major depression go untreated
  • Mental health is the same thing as physical health

To honor the absurdity of National Depression Screening Day, let's take a look at these themes. Before we do this, it's important to know who really benefits from media campaigns like NDSD. Pharmaceutical companies. Publications like PARADE that actually honor this lovely day by giving you access to "an anonymous online screening." Parents who don't make the time to talk to their kids or put them in an hour or two of counseling every week if need be. Instead, their kids are drugged. Mental health professionals who think Tom Cruise is an ass for taking a shot at psychiatry, but think stars like Ashley Judd and Brooke Shields are to be given major kudos for telling the whole wide world they were or are - depressed.

I have no earthly idea how it is possible to state $100 billion is lost in productivity every year in America because, of all things, mental illness. Who came up with this figure? How about acknowledging the stark fact that is staring you in the face - mental illness is subjective! Do we count monetary lost productivity if someone wakes up in the morning hungover, feels depressed about what they did the night before, and calls out sick? Where is the line drawn? Is there even a line drawn? I swear, I have heard about this $80-$100 billion dollar figure for years, despite all the depression drugs that are advertised on television day in and day out.

Now, how are we supposed to take seriously any doctor from the (oh so objective!) National Institute of Mental Health? I am pretty certain these are the same hacks responsible in part for the huge media blitz years ago that stated in so many words - "real" men will admit when they're depressed. These days, we have a Dr. Thomas Insel, the director of NIMH, who tells PARADE, "Only 20% of people with major depression get even minimally adequate treatment, and 43% aren't being treated at all." Do you see the pervasive numbers game being played? We're supposed to believe that 80% of all people who are depressed (saying "major" is just more doublethink) are walking around with no treatment. Also, perhaps a lot of people do in fact choose not to be drugged because they are willing to engage in different behavior to stop feeling depressed.

Well, this is when we run into some of the most laughable doublethink unleashed around National Depression Screening Day. That is, according to Dr. Douglas Jacobs, director of the nonprofit Screening for Mental Health, "Depression has a biological basis, and an environmental component." Ask yourself, why the biological basis - first? This is simply not true. Depression is subjective and environmental in nature. We can understand without drugs - why we are depressed for whatever length of time. We know what depresses us and stresses us. Think about it. How long can you ultimately go with denying the obvious in your life?

Keeping in line with the obvious, pushing the stigma mantra is the obvious thing done to continue lies about depression. Where is the stigma? Who is placing a stigma on you for stating your feelings of depression? How long does the stigma last? Year after year, we hear that people who say they are depressed, feel like they are being stigmatized. Again, by who? I don't know of any organization whose sole purpose is to make sure people do not admit they're feeling depressed or want to talk to someone, if need be, to become undepressed. On the other hand, I don't have enough fingers on enough hands to count the number of organizations that promote in a myriad of ways the need to take drugs for depression. So, something has to give. When it comes to depression, the only stigma that exists, if you want to call it that, is on people who dare say there are a plethora of other options for treating depressed feelings, besides drugs.

To somehow skirt the serious side effects of depression drugs and national awareness days to promote depression, we hear a lot of nonsense about how mental health is, ought to be, should be, must be the same as - physical health. When you attempt to debate someone on why mental health is not the same thing as physical health, all that happens is something along the lines of an atheist and a theist arguing for hours on end. There is no consensus. There is no middle ground. Each party will always walk away holding on to their own view.

Here's what really bothers me. If you break your leg, there are many objective medical things that need to be done and take place for the leg to heal properly. If you are feeling depressed, what you have is a subjective diagnosis and the person who is feeling depressed holds a lot of the cards. It's very easy to lie about why you are feeling depressed, and then not make the effort to feel better. The bigger problem is all the drugs. You can't even talk about depression without being made aware of all the drugs. Depression and drugs go hand in hand, and we are no better with a National Depression Screening Day.

Go ahead and boycott National Depression Screening Day on October 5th. You won't be told honestly on this day, what the true cost of (treating) your alleged depression will be.

In fact, the last thing you need is for someone to tell you that your problem is biological, and it wouldn't hurt to try one of the many treatments (drugs!) available to you.

Zizza is a freelance writer who resides in Atlanta, Georgia. He writes frequently about mental health and social issues.

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