The government’s ten-year drugs policy is welcome. More community treatment, and more money invested in it, is a very good thing, but it is no substitute for a wider awareness and public understanding, so that people can sustain jobs and find help among family and friends where before they couldn’t and wouldn’t talk. There also needs to be an understanding of what treatment entails and where it takes you. It’s not like treating a physical ailment, it doesn’t lead to an instant cure. It’s an ongoing process, of readjusting to life, and any pressure on recipients is immediately counter-productive.
It’s not just case of the public understanding depression, it’s also a case of understanding what treatment involves, and supporting those receiving it. Indeed supporting anyone who appears down. We’re moving on quickly here to the big and little acts of human kindness which make so much difference to everyone’s days, whether ill or not. Treating depression goes to the very core of our society and our relationships with others.
It saddened me to read a response from the Patients’ Association arguing that the money would be better spent on cancer treatment. It is of course an impossible balance to strike. But how about this as a proposition: at least cancer-sufferers can have a certain quality of life, can have relationships and friendships. Sufferers from depression have no quality of life, often wonder why they’re living at all. We need to understand and cater and care for both.
I enjoyed meditation at my local Kadampa Buddhist centre for several years, and I valued all that I learnt and the friendships I made. But no allowance was ever made in anything I read for people with depressive or related conditions. There’s the assumption that the mind is a perfect instrument, misused. If only it was so simple. Fulfilment, love as the ultimate expression of mind, comes from helping and understanding others, not in an abstract but in an everyday, practical sense.