Depression Need Not Stand in the Way of Greatness
> 2/19/2007 11:21:55 AM

It is fitting that Newsweek's cover story this week focuses on men and depression. On a day set aside to honor some of our nation's greatest leaders, the magazine examines how our understanding of depression has evolved from a dysfunction thought to primarily afflict women to am equal-opportunity disease to be treated and faced with chin held high. They write that when in times past men might have masked their depression as "a drinking problem" or just being "a miserable bastard," more and more men are seeking out depression treatment.

While Newsweek's story will offer little in the way of new information for those apprised of the latest news in depression and depression treatment, it does serve as a nice summary, although one that falls into the common media trap of over-stating the differences between men and women with regards to reticence to depression treatment. As part of the online packaging of their story, the magazine does have a nice photo presentation of some of those men who have achieved great things in spite of, or sometimes because of, their depression. As we've written before, researchers have found that nearly half of all Presidents dealt with depression and mental illness.

Abraham Lincoln is perhaps the most noted former president to suffer from depression, which one recent book proposed might have been part of what made him such a great leader. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister who heroically shepherded his nation through the darkest days of World War II, dealt with depression he referred to as his "black dog" that some believe was likely part of bipolar depressive disorder.

Writing in his autobiography Return to Earth, Buzz Aldrin details his own battle with depression and alcoholism after his time at NASA. Former U.S. Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-MO) was forced to step down as a vice presidential candidate after reports surfaced of his psychiatric hospitalizations that included ECT treatment. Instead of disappearing from the public eye, Eagleton moved on from the incident, won two more terms in the Senate and served there until 1986.

Leaders in other fields like television (Mike Wallace, Dick Cavett), film (Woody Allen, Jim Carrey), sports (Terry Bradshaw) and any number of doctors, nurses, lawyers, educators and scientists have faced depression and moved forward. These success stories should serve as a strong reminder that depression need not be a crippling blow to productivity. Instead, many see their most productive years follow forth from overcoming a battle with mental illness. By seeking treatment and persevering even through the disease's most difficult times, anyone can emerge to not only be productive, but to flourish in their own way.

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