by Joan-Marie Moss


Depression is not a new disease of the 20th century. Sufferers are among the elite. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Edgar Allen Poe, Mike Wallace, Joan Rivers and Dick Cavett are among the many who have been afflicted.

Indications are that those who are more sensitive, creative and intelligent are more prone to suffering from depression. One study performed in the ’80s found that 38% of 47 writers, poets and artists had taken medication, sought psychoanalysis or had been institutionalized for depression and bi-polar disorder. Another study performed in the 80’s showed that more creative people suffered from emotional strife synonymous with certain neurosis. (Time-Life Books, 1992)


Although the problem appears to be hopeless, there is good news. If you’re going to have an illness, you want it to be depression. It’s the most easily treatable.

The afflicted needs to work at getting back in balance. Professional counseling, support groups and the medical profession are learning to work together to speed recovery.

The medication is a critical aspect of treatment. The new drugs are marvelous even with the occasional discomfort of side effects. They work to re-balance the synapses that are responsible for the transmission of brain impulses.

Social workers and psychiatrists, too are much more skilled at identifying symptoms today than ever. Group counseling, support groups and crisis lines are more accessible. There’s help and information out there for those who have the courage and determination to find it.

Much of the work, says Barbara Hayes, a licensed clinical social worker who oversees a 12-session group that’s been running throughout the summer at Family Service DuPage, focuses on teaching cognitive reasoning techniques. Those who participate in this therapy learn to evaluate the validity of their thought processes and to recognize distorted thinking patterns. Then they learn to restructure their thought processes more positively and realistically. It’s a sort of de- programming that allows individuals to discover that there are other ways to look at one’s life experiences. Hayes has found this kind of therapy most productive when participants have the appropriate medical support. She assures her patients that “using medication is not wimping out.” Trying to pull yourself out of depression without the proper medical attention just doesn’t work, she says. It’s like a diabetic telling his pancreas to shoot insulin into his system, she says.

Unfortunately current health care programs, both private insurance and public aid, put unrealistic limits on treatment. All too often they cut short coverage long before the patient is able to cope without the medication and psychological support. When this happens they “hamstring the health care providers,” said Rose. It’s not at all uncommon for these programs to cut off the payment for medication and counseling sessions just about the time a patient starts to show some progress and before the patient is sufficiently recovered. The only recourse in cases like that, short of going “cold turkey”, is to get on a waiting list for services that are offered on a sliding scale fee. All too often the patient is not financially able to handle that.

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