If we started the English Language all over again, could we call depression something else? The thing is, to many people, it doesn’t sound like an illness. It sounds like an emotional reaction. It is used to mean so many things in so many ways.
“I’m so depressed about the way City threw away that last goal on Saturday”
“They just sold the last pair, I’m so depressed”.
“Watching rain out of the window was depressing”. “Reading Liz Jones in the Daily Mail makes me depressed and fearful for humanity”.
Even the economy gets in on the act with the Great Depression – for heaven’s sake, the bloody housing market is described as depressed. Let’s face it, you might as well call in and tell your boss you need time off to deal with being cold. I thought about that the other day, could I call colleagues and tell them I would be taking the day off as I was really, really cold? Obviously not.
Perhaps we need a new vocabulary. Can I make an observation that the description “Low Mood”, currently used by some GPs doesn’t take us forward. Low Mood, Bad Mood, there isn’t a great deal of difference to our ears. Again, any term has to stand the telling your boss, explaining medication away type of test.
“Sorry, I won’t be in today. My mood is low”. Nope, it doesn’t work really.
And of course, depression isn’t one illness. Sufferers might have Bipolar Disorder, which itself has a variety of forms. Depression can be described as Reactive – ie it has a cause, which once removed, it may be cured and disappear. It may be clinical – which I think means, bad news, your brain works differently to other people’s, here is medication which you may need to take for really long periods. Possibly forever. Depression coexists with other conditions, it can be a cause or a symptom. In short, a plethora of conditions, symptoms and illnesses all lumped together with a big Depression sticker.
My preference would be a new name that sounds, well, a bit more medical. A Syndrome, perhaps, possibly named after a famous scientist or even a sufferer. Fry Syndrome, Wax Syndrome. To me that feels better. “Yes, I take this medication as it controls the effects of Fry Syndrome. Oh, haven’t you heard of it, actually it’s quite common. I was diagnosed years back, but as long as I take the medication, it’s pretty manageable.”. You can hear the more sympathetic reaction can’t you? There’s even a certain cachet. Well, perhaps not, but there is a real difference in how it sounds. or perhaps Serotonin Deficiency Syndrome, or whatever best describes the particular reasons why the person is ill. Or translate Depression into Latin or Greek.
Because, fundamentally, my biggest problem with the word depression, is that in my own head if I tell people I’m suffering from depression, I hate that I sound like a right miserable cow. And in reality, I’m not. Today, I really felt those strong waves of Self Loathing Voice and Invisible Rock of Despair symptoms, but to the outside world, I made people laugh, I laughed myself and no one would suspect I ‘have depression’. Today I am not ‘ill’ but I have an illness. Ultimately, I think we need a bigger vocabulary, we need new words, because otherwise we are explaining mental health using a language that was never designed to describe what we really mean, in a way we all understand. Imagine if we had to describe the Internet, using only pre-Internet words. Who on earth would say social networking micro blogging website, when what they mean is Twitter? The world of mental health has moved on as much as technology and science, but our language is still stuck in a different age. And until language moves on, getting society (whether in the form of the government, your family, your colleagues or the media) to understand why mental illnesses are real illnesses will remain a challenge.