I was dismayed by Henry Allen's article "Red, White and Truly Blue" {Style, Nov. 26}. For those of us who have had major depressions, William Styron's description of depression is all too accurate. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain and has no simple cure. The lucky ones work with a psychopharmacologist to find the right chemical balance. Researchers at National Institutes of Health are working to find the causes of depression. None are Allen's facile and trendy suggestions.

As one of the lucky ones who fought through the hell of a suicidal depression, I can tell you that Allen doesn't know what he's talking about. I suggest he write NIH and get its free booklet called "Depression: What We Know." -- Jane Papish

I realize a medical discussion of depression was outside the scope of Henry Allen's article, but it shouldn't have been. For balance, Allen needed to differentiate the depression caused by pessimism, malaise, "chronic strain" and "quiet desperation" associated with societal pressures from the clinical depression caused by faulty nerve synopses in the brain.

As one hospitalized for clinical depression several years ago, I can attest that I was not just seeing the glass half empty instead of half full. I and my fellow patients were suffering from a disease caused by our brain chemistry -- not by our unemployment, divorce or unfulfilled expectations. Granted, the word "depression" has too many meanings. Because it does, societal depression and clinical depression need to be differentiated in any discussion.

Finally, the headline "America's Mania for Depression" was offensive, because it implied that one chooses to suffer from this designer disease. This is not the case for those fighting clinical depression as a mental illness. -- Carol Schroeder

It is significant that Henry Allen cited elite members of the media -- Time, Money Magazine, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, ABC, CBS etc. as sources for his story about the gloom and doom sweeping America.

The problem is that the media long ago lost touch with the American people. Television news programmers seem to feel that they must zap viewers with frequent messages of alarm, and that has reshaped the print media. For example, the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island was referred to on the air and in print as a "disaster," although no injuries were suffered, not even a hangnail.

Another case is the Santa Barbara oil spill, which the media proclaimed an ecological holocaust that would take decades to heal. Two years later few could remember it, and little or no physical evidence is left to show that it ever occurred. The same will be true of the Alaskan oil spill. And even when the economic situation is good, media "experts" talk about it with alarm.

The fact is that while the media see human beings as components of a society that shapes them to its own image, human being remain individuals. The average American owes his depression not to any real or imagined collapse of the American dream but to a broken personal relationships, trouble at work or to some other daily living experience. How people handle these situations depends on their spiritual fiber. And therein lies the real danger facing America -- a collapse of moral values that does, indeed, have an impact on individuals. -- William F. Fuchs