The British Psychological Society has released a new report, Understanding Depression. Written by a panel of experts, it aims to share and broaden understanding of what is often called "the common cold" of mental health because it is the most common presenting mental health issue. The Report provides a wide overview of the Depression in very accessible terms. To download the full Report click here.
The Report has not been without controversy. Firstly, it has attracted significant criticism from Psychiatry. This is because whilst it acknowledges that there are biological dimensions to Depression, it almost wholly ignores this research. The Report does suggest that life events alter brain function rather than vice versa, but this does not preclude the possibility that these changes are subsequently enduring. It also underplays the fact that for some people, Depression occurs without any environmental stressors at all.
Secondly, the Report has also been criticised for refuting that Depression is a disease, and instead iterates that it is "an experience." Putting aside the fact that you can "experience" a "disease," the Report's failure to recognise the role of medications in assisting some people with depression has attracted criticism from service users who feel medication is the only effective option to a profoundly debilitating disorder.
To read these critiques of the Report click here.
As such, the Report and the criticism combined, is illustrative of the broader debate within mental health. Should mental health be understood as being located in contemporary societal challenges or is there a more universal reality that underpins the condition? Are people simply projecting their political bias's on mental health or is the amoral scientific position actually an immoral one?
Depression is a fertile battle ground for these debates because of its commonality and variety of presentation. I suspect that there are probably different types of depression with different causes and consequences which all present with a similar profile. Sufficiently similar for everyone to argue their case. But read the Report and the critiques yourself to make up your own mind.