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Mental Malpractice


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To the editor:

David Futrelle's article on depression (January 28) treats the subject in an objective, rational way. Both people who are depressed and their associates need this information. People who are depressed suffer additionally because of the incorrect attitudes of others. I thank David Futrelle for his courage in writing a first-person article.

I became depressed in my late teens, in the 60s. The professionals who treated me evaded or ignored my questions about what depression is, what causes it, and what the probable outcome is. They did not explain their approach to depression, and they were frustratingly laconic and passive with me. It seems axiomatic that a depressed person cannot be treated in isolation, but they weren't interested in whether my family was supportive toward me in my illness. (My family criticized me as "just utterly selfish.") When the professionals ended my treatment after a few months, I wasn't feeling any better. I concluded that I would drag through the rest of my life feeling the same way, barely functioning. I hoped I would not have to live long. Otherwise, I had no hope.

I muddled through three years without improvement. When conflicts in my family worsened, I finally recognized that the conflicts were the cause of my depression. The prospect terrified me, but, in a desperate effort, I left home. The next morning, I wasn't depressed. I have since learned how to understand feelings, how to deal with them, and how to act assertively. I believe that handling my feelings effectively and staying away from harmful family members have prevented me from becoming depressed again.

Now I'm even more angry with the professionals. It seems to me that there should be a checklist of questions to ask or features of good mental health to look for, like the vital signs that physicians look for when treating injury or illness. For example, does the person have supportive relationships? a positive self-image? skills in communicating appropriately and relating to others? I think a professional should have guided me to discover the family conflicts that I had been denying. I didn't have to waste three years of my life.

I have often thought I should start or join a group for depressed people or people who have been maltreated for mental illness. For now, I continue my individual efforts to encourage and support others.

Ellen Credille

W. North Shore

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