Treating Depression in a Pagan Context: a Response   1 comment

I’m a good week behind in responding to the Wild Hunt’s article “Treating Depression in a Pagan Context“, largely because I’m in a place where spoons are at a premium.  I’ve got several ongoing projects at the moment, along with two jobs and obligations to my family and friends when I’d like nothing more than to spend a week staying in my flannel pants and playing video games to soothe my jagged edges.

But respond I must, I think.  Even if I believe the article was written in good faith, and from the perspective of wanting to help people out there.  Even if I believe those interviewed were doing their best to explain their points of view and what helped them.  Even if I know I tend to overreact to the idea that incorporating our beliefs as Pagans into daily life requires a shiny wrapping and a bow stamped PAGAN...because, of course, to me it doesn’t.

I’m not here to write about those things, though.  The fundamental flaw in the article, as I see it, is the conflation of the emotion called depression and the mental illness called Depression.  Or, as I like to characterize them, lower-case depression, and capital Depression.  You see, there’s a difference between the two.  One of them might be “…a relatively common condition, which should be resolved within a couple of weeks with self-care…”, but the other definitely isn’t, and those of us who are diagnosed with capital Depression can certainly attest to it.  And, even though the article notes at the end that “…outside help should be sought for any depression which lasts for more than a few days”, I don’t think it is clear enough about the differences to be truly helpful.

So, in light of this, I’m going to try to provide some additional information that I feel is both important and left out of the article in question.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has what I think is an amazing description of Depression on their site, and notes that there are several forms of depressive disorders.  In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a fact sheet that is easy to read and clearly points out that lower-case depression is not the same as capital Depression.  While Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, it is not as common as the emotion with the same name and it does not resolve after a few weeks of self-care, like the common cold.

There are amazing resources out there for people trying to differentiate whether they are depressed or have Depression, and in addition to the ones I list above, the American Psychiatric Association’s website has some fantastic articles and tools.  In particular, the Online Assessment Measures section of the site includes patient questionnaires that can be used by clinicians to assist in diagnosis of Depression and other mental illnesses.  I’m especially fond of the Severity Measure for Depression – Adult, which does what it says on the tin.  Now, this questionnaire follows the guidelines of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 5 (DSM-V) and needs to be scored by a clinician, but a person who suspects that they might have Depression could do way worse than complete the questionnaire and take it in to their physician.

I truly hope this information helps someone, and that future articles from The Wild Hunt that tackle mental illness are clearer about what they’re actually addressing.

(And, for the record, I’m highly annoyed that WordPress won’t capitalize the D in my URL.)

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Posted January 22, 2015 by veggiewolf in Depression

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One response to “Treating Depression in a Pagan Context: a Response

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  1. Since I’m anti-capitalist, I distinguish the two as “being depressed” and “having depression.” I very much appreciate the distinction between the two, and the confusion many people have is part of what drove me to research the piece in the first place, see my personal reflection here: http://truepaganwarrior.com/2014/12/20/the-tenacious-spirit-of-depression/

    When I spoke with Reverend Fox, I took a very different interpretation from her comparison to the common cold than you and others did. What I heard was her way of recognizing the distinction, not ignoring it. By suggesting that depression should be resolved in a couple of weeks with self-care, or professional help should be sought, Fox is guiding people out of this trap.

    I opted to rely on that advice for the article, that anything longer than a week or two is almost certainly not merely being depressed, and won’t get better with group hugs and warm fuzzies. I recognize that some who have personally experienced the difference, such as yourself, think I missed the boat. However, if a new victim decides to seek outside help after only a week or so, and thus averts a life of pain, I count that as a success.

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