David Von Drehle told us in his June 10 op-ed, “The quest for happiness may be killing us," that “neither wealth nor celebrity nor any other endowment quiets the human impulse to wish some things were different than they are.” There is a difference between wishing things were different and the unrelenting despair of treatment-resistant depression.
Mr. Von Drehle’s glib references to the “ebb and flow of discontent” made clear that he doesn’t understand the complexities of mental illness. Perhaps, as he said, we shouldn’t assume “happiness to be the normal, healthy human condition.” This provided little solace to those whose depression makes getting out of bed, let alone going to work, a major accomplishment. For every Lincoln Mr. Von Drehle talks of as taking “great strength from the piercing insights of depression,” many others are paralyzed by its effects. Research shows that depression is the leading cause of absenteeism in the United States.
Mr. Von Drehle equated opioid abuse with major depression, a breathtakingly inaccurate leap. While opioid abuse in some individuals is associated with depression, the vast majority of individuals with depression are not opioid abusers. Implying that they are is unconscionable given the stigma of mental illness.
Tragically, suicide may be seen by depressed individuals as their last, best or only option to deal with what they believe is an untreatable condition. Mr. Von Drehle’s simplistic statements did not encourage them to seek additional treatment and provided no comfort to those they leave behind.
Foster Lott, University Park