It’s my birthday and I’ll rant if I want to

This is really very simple and it won’t take long and I just have to say it. So excuse my self indulgence.

There’s a letter to Cary Tennis from a person who is coping with serious depression. In response to Cary’s advice there are 185 messages. A good number of these messages address the issue of medication, and a lot of that discussion is negative.

Don’t go the pharmacology route. Stay away from meds, change your diet, your exercise, your sleeping habits and forget the pills.

Not all the responses are like this, but enough.  Now, I’ve written about depression more than once here. About my own history with it, about family history and tragedies narrowly avoided. I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking about all this, in addition to my personal experiences.  So I’m not going to repeat all of that — the links are in the near right hand column if you are really interested — but I am going to say this.

Unless you yourself have been diagnosed as clinically depressed, or have had a close family member who has had such a diagnosis, your opinion about medication counts for jackshit.  If you have been diagnosed and you had a bad experience with one or more medications, keep that to yourself when you are talking to people who need help. Just shut up. This is not the time to raise the issue of the questionable practices of pharmaceutical companies. If you know someone in a bad place, this is the time to listen. If you are asked for advice, provide names and numbers of medical professionals, but do not, do not, tell the person in question how to feel about medication before they ever walk into the doctor’s office.

Imagine a neighbor’s kid is diagnosed with diabetes of a particularly difficult and dangerous kind. Would you go over there and start up a discussion about the profit margins on insulin? Would you suggest that the kid try to do without? talk about the healing power of cranberry juice or ritual cleansing or  morning hikes? Would you ask if your neighbor had considered the fact that his kid will be dependent on insulin for the rest of his or her life, and if that’s a good thing? If you are such a person, my guess is that you’d get punched in the face, and deservedly so.

Depression has to do, at least in part — and maybe in large part — with genetics and brain chemistry.  They haven’t figured out the details, but there is a lot of data and some pretty solid conclusions to be drawn from that. But here’s all you need to know: depression is serious business that often requires medication.  It’s not a fad diet to be discussed over coffee, it’s a disabling condition, one of the invisible disabilities that can make an individual want to die. Any many do.

So when people raise the topic of medication for depression, when you’re asked for your opinion, here’s what you say: I don’t know. I have no idea. It’s too important and too complex a subject for casual tossing about of opinions.

And leave it at that.