Not very long ago, mental illness, particularly depression had this negative stigma. Many were embarrassed to even talk about it. It was thought of as "going crazy" or "going insane." I believe there have been many positive strides in both the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of depression.
Now, there is a leading British psychiatrist who is saying that depression is being overdiagnosed? He just completed a 15 year study looking at 242 teachers and found that more than 75 percent of them fit the current criteria for depression. (BBC News)
Professor Gordon Parker claims the threshold for clinical depression is too low and risks treating normal emotional states as illness.Now, this may surprise you, but I do agree with the professor to a certain extent. Currently, the cultural norms are such that the term depression does not carry as much negative connotation as in the past. In fact, one could argue, that the current en vogue mental illness diagnosis is bipolar disorder as this is more prominent in the media these days.
He writes in the BMJ [British Medical Journal] that almost everyone [in the study] had symptoms such as "feeling sad, blue or down in the dumps" at some point in their lives - but this was not the same as clinical depression which required treatment.
He said: "Over the last 30 years the formal definitions for defining clinical depression have expanded into the territory of normal depression, and the real risk is that the milder, more common experiences risk being pathologised."
I would even go as far as saying that there is a certain element of Western culture, especially American culture, which loves to avoid personal responsibility and accountability. I wasn't really speeding, I was responding to my bad day at work, and it's their fault that I was going so fast. Alcoholism is an illness, so I cannot control any of my actions, so I'm not responsible for any consequences.
Don't get me wrong, I believe it is appropriate to treat substance abuse and depression as illness. But, I also believe that some people in the culture use this as an excuse of convenience. And, that is very sad...