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Turning away from disease-theory

Six months later, I'm still mad at her for leaving. But I hope that near the end she found a kind of peace, the peace you feel when you stop struggling against the tide and just let it carry you out. That's what I would feel if she'd had any other fatal illness, because I know that's really what she had. Not all suicides are depression-related, of course. And not all depressed people kill themselves -- fortunately, many can, with therapy or medication or both, control it. But Ali died of the same thing that's eating away at approximately 21 million Americans right now, the thing that killed Alexander McQueen and Andrew Koenig and now Michael Blosil. They didn't take their lives because they were selfish. They did it because they succumbed to a selfish disease – one that wanted them all to itself. (Mary Elizabeth Williams, “Depression’s Latest Victim: Marie Osmond’s son,” 1 March 2010)

The disease model of depression has outlived its usefulness and yet we persist. We persist in avoiding responsibility for our habits of thought and our habits of relating. We persist in avoiding responsibility for the alienation our culture breeds by making depression a "disease" of the brain, somehow disconnected from the personalities and personal histories of the individual sufferers. The real killer in depression is person who turns his hand against himself. Emotions are not external agents, the demons of animistic cultures. Neither are they the unpredictable byproduct of brain disease or chemical imbalance. Emotions come from thoughts. Emotions are an integral part of being human, inseparable from relationship to self, to family, and to the larger community. (srquist, response to post, “Depression’s Latest Victim”)

@Sara Rosenquist

I think you mean to use words like "choice" and "responsibility" to provoke people out of willfully "succumbing [to the lure of being victim] to a selfish disease" -- the retreat to science-legitimated, no-further-thought required. I think your shock is helpful, especially when Mary makes suicide after depression a Sunday to enjoy after a six-day work-week ("But I hope that near the end she found a kind of peace, the peace you feel when you stop struggling against the tide and just let it carry you out"), means of imagining yourself bidden toward a likely afterlife of lyrical ease and loving recompense ("They didn't take their lives because they were selfish. They did it because they succumbed to a selfish disease – one that wanted them all to itself.")

Still, if turning away from disease-theory means a movement toward blaming others -- which is what most people will think of when we associate suicide with choice -- it'll be regression, not progress. In truth, I don't believe depression is a disease, but I do think it is an affliction WHICH CAN determine a person's behavior and "choices." Early childhood, if you did not know sufficient love, if you came to understand your own needs as selfish and your role as someone who pleases others (your parents), your adult, independent life will be largely under the rule of an angry, watchful superego, which will ensure that you are much more prone to make some choices than you are others.

Link: Depression's latest victim: Marie Osmond's son


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