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Is depression illness or injury? Thursday August 29, 2013

I was so impressed with Clark Carlisle's brave effort to confront the hidden secret of depression amongst footballers.

His honest and heartfelt exposure of his own challenges, along with the obvious stigma in the profession surrounding depression was very emotional to watch.

What struck me though was the idea of somehow the depression arising within football is an illness. I wonder if it might be more helpful to see it as an injury. Physical injury is obvious. One is carted off the pitch. It's acceptable and very much a normal part of the game to expect players to sustain physical injury and to need often very long periods of convalescence.

But is not the often considerable and overbearing mental strain not also an injury?

Why label these unfortunate players with terms like 'Major Depressive Disorder' or 'Clinical Depression'? Why not see it for what it is, often an expected and fairly predictable reaction to devastating circumstances or events? Is not the expectation and demands foisted upon sports stars simply often completely unrealistic? The higher up one climbs the further it is to fall.

Surely, compassion, education, understanding and empathy is called for? Many players may have the resilience to cope with the pressures placed on them but, for others, the depression arising has to be the most lonely isolated place to be. Surely, a depressive episode is worthy of the same empathy and understanding afforded to a ruptured Achilles?

Well done, Clark, for speaking out.

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Julia Thu, Aug 29th 2013 @ 7:51am

I really do agree with you Bill that depression could be looked at as an injury. I didn't see the programme you are writing about but hope to catch up when we get back from France.
When one has a physical illness such as Cancer,a heart problem, a broken leg etc it's there for everyone to see and commiserate with the sufferer. Depression is invisible and therefore one has to prove to people that we are suffering from an illness or injury. I had a very difficult time convincing my employers I was ill as they couldn't see any outward physical sign and refused to give me sick leave. This was a while ago (but not that long ago). I hope things have improved in the work place now.
But such a valuable point you have made Bill. Thanks

Anonymous Thu, Aug 29th 2013 @ 8:33am

I'm currently going through a particularly bad patch yet still struggle with convalescing. I'm trying to think of myself as having a "broken mind" (as though that gives me more permission for the sick leave). I realise I have guilt issues and shouldn't feel this way.

Richard Hull, PhD Thu, Aug 29th 2013 @ 9:41am

Excellent idea Bill

Anonymous Thu, Aug 29th 2013 @ 12:33pm

Depression has blighted my life several times from age 14. Strangely each time I've found it easier to cope each time, having already experienced it. That's not to say it's any less upsetting, I've just learned to 'manage' it. I hope that one day mental illness will be viewed in exactly the same way as a physical illness.

Village Website Editor Thu, Aug 29th 2013 @ 1:59pm

Very good point. I really like the concept of depression as an injury rather than a (presumably chronic, long-term) illness. Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone though. That's perhaps one of depression's most beguiling features though - it seems to vary so much from person to person.

Anonymous Thu, Aug 29th 2013 @ 6:08pm

If we think of depression as an injury, we have to broaden the definition of injury to include everything that presents a risk of depression. I honestly don't think it matters if we think of it as illness or injury as either way it creates a period of disability.

In the States, if someone is incapable of performing their job duties, that's it. It's not something can be challenged by a line manager of a company, who does not have a medical degree. Likewise, the person affected is not required to disclose anything other than the activities affected, the limitations on job activities, and what accomodations are needed.

So you have a situation where disability is disability whether it's a heart attack, stroke, broken bone, diabetic coma or incapacitating depression. And the injury vs. illness distinction is unnecessary.

All that said, compassion, empathy, and understanding is always called for when someone is injured or ill.

Julia Thu, Aug 29th 2013 @ 6:43pm

America is often right and at the forefront of employment law. I think you have mentioned a very important point here. Many medically unqualified people (especially work colleagues and so called friends) seem to have an opinion about depression. A subjective opinion, normally prejudiced against the sufferer. However not many people would dare to comment on someone's cancer for instance as if they knew all about it, what caused it,the cure etc.

Anonymous Thu, Aug 29th 2013 @ 10:37pm

I have noticed the difference when I have been physically eg had the flu - people tend to be sympathetic and concerned. But during periods of depression (particularly bad now) friends and family have been critical and impatient and negative. I tend to keep it to myself now except from a couple of close friends, which puts a huge strain on me. I admire anyone who speaks out about mental illness and their experience it is not easy. May we all find the compassion we deserve and hope peoples attitude changes

Anonymous Fri, Aug 30th 2013 @ 11:26pm

There is a quote "it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society" Krishnamurti. I don't appreciate being labeled as having an illness and think that your post on not labeling players with depression and focusing on the life events that led them to feel this way as well as our living in a very stressful, dysfunctional society is more prudent and accurate-and this philosophy can be applied to many people with depression. I am not depressed because I have a chemical imbalance-I am depressed because 1. I am carrying pain about things in childhood 2. being forced to share a one bedroom apt at age 40 with a stranger bc I cant afford the rent on my own even though i work full time 3. bc I am not able to live my passion of training in a new career due to drowning in debt (inflation not commensurate with wages) thus can not access the education nor support myself while I take time off-thus I am living without actualizing my dreams. These are just some of the tangible reasons for why I am depressed-and just as you stated there are tangible reasons for the players being depressed. I think your post is most relevant and can apply to many people who have been labeled.

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