We rely on words to define us. If we try to express a specific condition without the right words attached, we become lost and we are unable to clearly understand each other. While teaching one of my Public Health courses, a group discussion about clinical depression led us into an examination of the word “depression” and how the home cultures of some of the students’ parents did not allow, or define, the concept of “depression” in a serious, medical, sense.
If you are clinically depressed, but your language has no word to give meaning to your condition, what do you become? What is the label for your “depression?”
It seems, according to our class discussion, that your symptoms are either ignored or you are given a label that the majority finds more useful to wield against you: “Lazy,” “tired,” and “undependable” were a few options.
Students from India, Nigeria and Thailand plainly said there was no concept for “depression” in their native culture and many felt their parents “would not allow” them to accept medication for — or the labeling of — their condition as “depressive.”
I asked if their Thai, Nigerian or Indian dictionaries provided definitions for “depression” and all of them said “the word does not exist in our language.”
As homework, I asked them to ask their parents to explain the concept of “depression” and the results reported during next class indicated a complete parental misunderstanding of what it means to be “depressed” and, after the condition was explained to them, a total and complete dismissal of a misdiagnosis that has no bearing in reality.
I asked how their parents would react to having their children placed on medication to deal with their depressive states and every student reported their parents would not accept the idea of medicating a disease that does not exist. One student’s mother said, “No medication. Get a job instead. It will make you feel better.”
So is depression real, verifiable, and treatable — or is it merely conditional? Is depression all of the mind and not in the body? Is the remedy to feeling depressed to simply change the topic from oneself to serving the external world in labor and deeds?
Instead of denying the darkness and pushing people into the light — are we only pressing people deeper into a depressive state by medicating them to keep them boxed within their own mind — creating a cipher of an existence instead of one that sloughs off the hard times to perpetually create the happy moment?
If a culture of minds refuses to define “depression” by recording it in a dictionary or embedding it in a national dialogue — does that condition cease to exist, or is it only given a more convenient tag?
I am reminded of a previous argument I made here against the new and nonsensical medical “diagnosis” of “fibromyalgia” — which is now taking on a life of its own as “The New Depression” — by claiming various aches and pains as a medically certifiable condition in need of medication when, five years ago, we managed aches and pains with aspirin and, a generation ago, we healed the same condition with a shot of whiskey and an earlier bedtime.
Don’t try, however, to take away someone’s “fibromyalgia” label — they cherish that diagnosis and they will fight you to keep it with every muscle and bone in their body — because they are comforted in the acknowledgment of their vague condition by the medical profession.
Are we becoming a world of complainers seeking to pop a pill to fix every discomfort?
Have we lost our inherent toughness to solider on in the dark and rain and muck just because we believe tomorrow will be a brighter day?
Is is unnatural to force sunshine into a darkness that seeks no light?
Does every negative feeling, pain, and ache require medical intervention?