A weblog to encourage the discussion of psychiatry and history
Friday, March 19, 2010
Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression, edited by Nell Casey
The most interesting essay in this collection was Joshua Wolf Shenk's "A Melancholy of My Own," where he argues that the introduction of the term "depression" (by Adolf Meyer in 1905 as a replacement for melancholia) into the lexicon of psychiatry has served, if nothing else, to deaden and flatten the way we use language to describe certain painful experiences. The essays in this collection are strong evidence for his argument. While some of the authors do use vivid language to describe their experiences most then seem to say that all that was 'just depression,' making reading these essays a numbing experience. I guess i shouldn't have expected more from a book with an introduction written by the apostle of Depression Kay Redfiled Jamison. Published in 2001, this book does seem to provide a useful sourcebook on the historical question of how psychiatry influenced the way people in the late twentieth century thought about themselves.