"When we're depressed we're in touch with our problems, and this is our one opportunity to solve them. Because we're being honest with ourselves it allows for the statement of truth. This is why many writers and poets have used it to be creative. Many have suffered severe manic depression, and some great creativity has come out of this state.
Our problems can be fairly basic, like where's next week's money coming from. Or they can be existential. Many have to do with our self-esteem, with the expectations others have had of us, whether we're ever going to achieve our goals and fulfil these expectations: these issues come home to roost in depression. It is a very natural state, it's in our biological make-up. But humans defends against it ferociously. In the face of depression a person will become a workaholic or use alcohol, but that only distances one from the root of the problem. A positive thinking approach doesn't work - it just encourages people to deny their problems. I've spent much of my life trying to help people with anorexia. And the path to recognition is often a sort of depression as they come face to face with the problems that were confronting them.
When you think about it the human race has every reason to be depressed. It's on the brink of destroying itself. It's polluting and over-populating, it's the most violent of all the species, and yet it defiantly refuses to acknowledge or deal with its problems."
Arthur Crisp, retired professor of psychiatry at St George's Hospital, south London, is heading the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Changing Minds campaign (0171-235 2351), launched this month to challenge the stigma around mental illness
"You have to fight depression. You have to fight your own inner conversations. The starting point is to change your thinking and start thinking positively. That doesn't mean to deny reality, it means to represent it differently. It's true that depression is a natural state and that society gives us many reasons to feel depressed. But this view is a very negative one, and is based on blaming things `out there' for our problems. It's not because of society that we are depressed, or even our parents. Two people with exactly the same family background can turn out completely differently. We are all different and we live different lives. And how we respond to those lives is largely dictated by our own inner thoughts.
The tendency for most people in this nation is to get negative. If you ask someone how they're doing, it's `not bad', `not wonderful'. And so what happens is you build an expectation that you won't do so well. There's a spiral of negativity. You start off with just a little moan about something and then it moves into more serious negativity. Then you really start to feel you can't do things. Your self-esteem goes down, and not far off is depression.
In the end it's about taking responsibility for your own attitudes and making a stand. A lot of us do have expectations that the world's a terrible place. That people let us down. But a lot of that's self-fulfilling. And once you start to confront that and shift on the little stuff, then you can take some of the bigger issues and deal with them. There's the old saying, `Give yourself a shake.'"
Jack Black is director of self-development training organisation Mindstore (0141 3339393)Reuse content