I've believe that one way of measuring unconditional love is seeing how family or friends help each other through depression. "Melancholy without its charm" is how Susan Sontag described it. Yet there's a little light that may bring a smile to sufferers of depression. Research shows that St John's-wort is as effective in treating depression as anti-depressants, with fewer side-effects. Patients who take it show increased self-esteem, appetite, and they sleep better. This is no big news in Germany where St John's-wort is a leading treatment for depression and where Prozac accounts for 2 per cent of the market. But in the US Prozac is hot! Some 20 million people use it out of a population of 250 million. Manufacturers, Eli Lilly, claims the effects of the drugs have been studied on 4,000 people. Psychiatrist Peter Breggin discovered through the US Freedom of Information Act that only 286 had completed the four-week test. (Somebody in this country should publish his book, Talking Back to Prozac, if we are to avoid becoming the next Prozac nation.) Even these studies found side-effects including agitation, irritability and nightmares. Maybe psychiatrists would do well to consider alternative drugs as options beyond prescribing medication. At the end of the century we will need to come out of the medicine closet with new ways to help people find their way out of their dark cloud.

I RECALL being at my most depressed during the Gulf War. I took a stand against the war which could have cost me my company. Since my teens I'd been anti-war. That part of my convictions still held true. What went on in Iraq was nothing more than a shooting arcade. When we condemn computer games and try to ban films such as Crash, our sense of conviction seems misplaced. I'd put messages around town and enlisted shops to gather signatures for sanctions. Then I came up against the managing director who felt differently. Like the war itself, this was brinkmanship. Would I be able to convince anybody about the stand I was taking? There was only one solution - a full debate of head office staff. Little debate had so far taken place. The media were gung-ho, everyone was war-crazy. I'd reached that moment when I felt alone. Then help came. In front of 500 employees, two guys spoke from the heart about how their experience of war had altered their values. One had served in Northern Ireland, the other in the Falklands. I felt my fate lay in their hands. My concern was unfounded. From them we heard what it was like to be in the frontline. The experience of participating in war had changed their very ideas about war. I didn't need to say a word. They carried the day and again I felt part of the company. Nevertheless, I knew I'd been close to the brink. Strangely, I realised I'd had no choice. I'd taken an instinctive stand that was the most honest expression of who I was. A depressing situation that could have led to depression led instead to a clarity of purpose.

I USED to hate being characterised as a success story born of Thatcher's Britain. For all her leadership qualities, no one did more to damage the nation's social fabric than Margaret Thatcher. But the last five years have been truly pitiful. Whenever we needed real action on the Nigerian question or to stop animal testing of cosmetics - the Government back- tracked. There was no instinct, no courage. It sickened me when John Major wrung his hands over the "judicial murder" of our friend Ken Saro- Wiwa, when for months the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had shown disinterest in the threat to Ken and his colleagues. So it was mostly for the opportunity to say: "For God's sake, go" to the Conservatives that I agreed to appear in Labour's business election broadcast. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that all government is focused on economics. But I'm on the left because more attention seems to be paid to human needs rather than economic needs. The real depression for me is how the Tories have never seen insecurity in the workplace as a problem but only as a weapon in a sweatshop economy. I'm tired of seeing economic efficiency ahead of social justice. The great thing about Tony Blair is that he looks tired of it too. But there's no point in substituting one band of politicians for another if we continue with the form of government we have in Britain today. I want government made simple. I want individuals badly served by the state to be heard: the elderly on a basic state pension, young people who don't feel involved, lone kids at the bottom of every politician's hit list. None of these receives adequate information, nor yet do they have the skills to communicate with policy makers. Wouldn't it be amazing if Mr Blair was the prime minister who facilitated democracy by talking with the nation? He could take a live monthly television slot and be the first politician ever to listen to the people, instead of other politicians, at Question Time, about what was working and what was not. Then the government would not have to depend on opinion polls and by-elections to find out its policies were unpopular. I think we're talking, not just about a change of government but about a change in how government conducts itself. A five-year mandate becomes a monthly mandate for real-time government. I back Mr Blair because he has the vision that's concerned with public well-being. One of the greatest tools of leadership is communication. So Mr Blair has to enunciate this vision and stick to it. Then he'll be the prime minister of a country, not a party. I hope he'll emerge as a political pioneer who creates a foundation of civility. We are all so sick of slogans that pass for debate. Our representatives should be the best of us, whatever their political affiliation; the best in the moral, civic, political and professional sense. Then, government will be intelligent and compassionate. It may not cure depression but more attention to human rights and less bother about balancing the budget may just do the trick.

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