Letter to the Editor
Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 05:02
In response to the Feb. 8 Tufts Daily article by Tufts alumnus Evan Wecksell, "How to beat ‘depression,'" I would like to address his disturbingly uninformed and false remarks about depression and how it can be treated.
I appreciate and agree with his suggestions that communication can be a helpful reliever of stressors and that those who are distressed should seek help. However, in the second half of his article, Mr. Wecksell entirely mischaracterizes depression and belittles not only depression itself but also those who experience it.
His statement that "depression is a feeling, not an illness" is hurtful and wholly false. Depression is a mental illness that affects over 24 million Americans — that's about ten percent of our population — each year. This illness is real, and one that hurts profoundly. The feeling is not a figment of the imagination of someone merely in a funk; rather, it is the sense of worthlessness, fatigue, hopelessness and overwhelming pain that accompanies this mental illness. Depression manifests itself with physical and mental symptoms and interferes with relationships and daily life.
Depression is not treated by deciding to have fun or by getting back together with a significant other. Neither is it treated by an individual who decides "what is wrong with you." Depression is among the most treatable of mental illnesses, but first it has to be recognized — both recognized as a real illness and identified within an individual. When depression is labeled, the individual can then be empowered to seek help from a professional. People are then armed with the knowledge that they are not alone in their illness and that they can be treated. Professionals help individuals address their struggles, not tell them that something is wrong with them, and they are effective and helpful in ways that friends' "two cents" cannot be. As long as depression is viewed as a feeling or a funk that someone can choose to snap out of and not as a real, treatable mental illness, those with depression will continue to suffer in silence.
Like millions of other Americans and college students, I have felt how depression harms relationships and wreaks havoc and pain upon those who experience it. I have watched and helped as friends and acquaintances have sought treatment for depression, and I have known the unquantifiable pain of losing my best friend to suicide. Lives are not lost to funks and feelings.
I understand that Mr. Wecksell's article was perhaps only meant to help those with post-graduate or financial stresses gain some perspective and to encourage them to take steps to relieve themselves of their stressors. I support this intention. However, in trying to accomplish this goal, Mr. Wecksell belittled and dismissed a real illness that seriously impacts members of the Tufts community and the world at large. To characterize depression as a simple funk and to suggest that treatment is a useless process of judgment is not only ignorant but hurtful and destructive. I hope the Daily will reconsider publishing such harmful misinformation in the future.
Class of 2012