Friday, January 05, 2007

Lincoln's Melancholy How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness

Read the whole thing, it's great!
If we declare depression to be nothing but a disease, as Peter Kramer demands in Against Depression, then billions of dollars will continue to pour into biotech research and treatment and we will continue to ignore the societal and cultural causes of depression. If instead, we see strengths in those with depressive temperaments, as does Joshua Wolf Shenk in Lincoln’s Melancholy, then we become uneasy about handing over our despair to profit-hungry biotech corporations. 
One wonders whether the medicalization of depression—which the psychiatric establishment claimed would eliminate the stigma of “character defect”—instead created the stigma of “biochemical defect.” 
 Then how did Lincoln, without antidepressants or electroconvulsive treatment, not only live a meaningful and productive life, but become for many the most admired president in U.S. history? Lincoln hung in there with commonsense selfhelp therapies such as humor and poetry and, ultimately, Lincoln’s depression, rather than being an unfortunate disease, actually “fueled his greatness.” 

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