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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness


Short Extracts:

 A Discourse on Depression by Helen Slade



D is the fourth letter of the alphabet.

In China, four, would be an unlucky bet.

The glyph for four - and death - are almost the same,

and so that numeral has a bad name.

In Greek mythology Discordia was a goddess of discord and strife.

She made sure there was dissension and disharmony in everyone's life.

She was also sister of Panic, Terror, Trembling and Fear.

Does this kind of family sound in any way familiar?

In ancient Greece your inner spirit was a daemon.

In later times it became corrupted to - a demon.

Melancholia was what we call - depression.

In some cultures it was handled by a shaman.

Two features noticed by Hippocrates,

were - "all fears and despondencies."

It was a disease called - huzn - by Arab physicians.

Avicenna said it was a mood disorder with phobia and suspicions.

Shakespeare's - Hamlet - was a study of depressive behaviour.

Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy was a 17th century saviour.

Some societies saw mental illness as a divine test,

to be treated with kindness, protection and rest.

But medieval Europe did not see them as blessed.

The mentally ill were condemned as - possessed.

There was a drastic and dreadful treatment in the Middle Ages.

Depressives and others were confined to asylums in cages.

Locked up and tortured in dank dark cells.

It was said they were controlled by devils.

The sword of Damocles held by a single hair of thread,

is strategically placed above a depressive's head.

Gradually programs for the mentally ill were enhanced.

Understanding and research, by Pinel, in France.

Today, with scans, we can actually see

where the brain behaves depressively.

It could be a chemical overload or imbalance,

electronic mis-firings, or a brain loop stance.

Now with counselling, appropriate drugs, and therapy,

those wilh depression may behave normally.


Within Society

"Pull yourself together," or, "Get over it," they say.

Those two statements often come your way.

The unspoken illness, with whispers and avoidance.

Depression is society's cue for an uneasy stance.

Embarrassed and uncomfortable, they do an about face.

Depression has been treated as a social disgrace.

Avoid the depressive, it's disconcerting to explain

to social guests who find their melancholy a drain.

But if your gathering is dull, or laced with gloom,

a manic will give a lively flavour to the room.

They will be the party animal, to joke,sing and shout,

but if their mood turns, please show them out.

Please don't double-cross the downcast,

they were rejected as - dotty - in the past.

Decry the dictums of dogmatic fools.

The dictionary will redeem with its didactic tools.

They don't need your derision or derogatory comments.

They would ask empathy, assistance and common sense.

Depression is a disease with many descriptions.

Don't defile it with prejudicial definitions.

If you can deal with diseases one and all,

then why not those that are inside the skull?

Historically, people called depression - possession.

Surely we have more moved past that description?

If some in society still deride their case,

do an exchange, and put them in that place.

If they are dragged down to the black dog's desolate den,

seek advice, assistance, or support, to help them.


November 2011


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