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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Reaching Out To Those With Depression

by Eric Hall

January 4, 2012

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Donate A few stories at the start of this year have me reaching out for the help of humanity. What we are allowing people to do to each other and to themselves makes me truly sad. For those of us in the skeptical community driven by science and facts, we to can also be moved by the emotions of humans. So let me start with those stories.

Todd Tweedy went missing yesterday after leaving this post on Facebook:
One illness I've never been able to defeat is my own depression. I have to say goodbye now. I wish each of you a wonderful New Year!
The news quickly spread on Twitter. I don't know Todd, but his Twitter profile says he is a dad and author. From what people are saying in the comments of his Facebook post, he is a really great guy. It would be a shame to lose someone like this, even more so for his family. [Update 9:47PM CST 1/4/2012 - Great News! Todd has been found safe. I have posted some follow-up links at the end of the post.]

Joe Bodolai, a comedian and former writer for Saturday Night Live, did die because of his depression. He killed himself after writing a lengthy blog post about his life. As skeptics, let's ignore the few conspiracy theory things in the post for a moment and look at all of the things in his blog post he is proud of. His predictions and his regrets revealed fear and sadness. But he had so many things to be proud of and a family that he could continue to build more accomplishments around. His disease didn't let him find peace.

Another story was one by "The Bloggess" who I just discovered thanks to Phil Plait. She wrote a wonderful and succinct piece on why it is so hard to suffer from depression. I call it wonderful because it is so well written and really gets at it in a way that is raw and honest. Everyone who has ever had a bout with depression should read it. Anyone who hasn't had depression should read it so you can maybe understand how it feels. If I had to pick out one statement out of her post to help capture the idea, it would be this one:
I hope one day I live in a world where the personal fight for mental stability is viewed with pride and public cheers instead of shame.
This last story isn't one about a person battling depression, but one who helps others battle depression and other mental illnesses...who lost her job because of the low priority we put on helping those with mental illness. Bob Collins writes a regular column for Minnesota Public Radio and wrote this piece about his wife Carolie:
My wife, Carolie, and the people who work in the program, were the answer to the prayers of the most desperate people among us, people who were in no position to navigate the byzantine world of human services and health care in Minnesota. Its goal was what everyone said they wanted: early intervention and help to prevent high costs later.
The program was shut down. See the three previous stories and tell me why we would take this away?

Update: Bob wrote a piece about Mr. Tweedy while I was writing this blog. It is also a nice read on getting depression and mental illness out in the open. I thought it seemed relevant to add here.


Depression is very real. The CDC data estimates that 1 in 10 adults suffers from depression. The World Health Organization approximates that 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression and will become the 2nd most common health problem in the world by 2020. As far back as 2007, anti-depressants were the most commonly prescribed drug in the United States. Dr. Kelly Posner, an assistant professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City said in the same 2007 CNN article that 25% of adults will have a major depressive episode at some point in their life.


Those suffering from depression get varying degrees of treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 71% of those with depression in the United States are getting treatment (with the percentage being much lower for those 18-25 than for those 50+). PBS has a different statistic in its special "Depression: Out of the Shadows," where it states that approximately 80% of those suffering from depression are currently not receiving treatment. In either case it seems too high to me.

My call to action is for us all to be more aware of ourselves and of each other. Let's not have anyone become a victim of this disease. There are treatments available. We can support one another. Let's make sure not to let people be victims to bad and unscientific treatments. Even if you are not a skeptic and want to try an "alternative" treatment (one that has not been thoroughly tested for efficacy), please take make sure you check with your health care professional to be sure it will not interfere with your primary path of treatment. Let's not have one more family wait for Todd to come home. Let's not have a family never have Joe come back. Let's all cheer for The Bloggess. Let's all fight to have more people like Carolie doing good work.

Update: Thankfully, Todd was found. The family has asked for privacy and I am not going to pursue further his condition other than what was reported when he was found. He was found about 40 miles from home and brought back to a hospital near his home. You can find the local television report here (KARE-TV) and the local newspaper report here (Pioneer Press).


by Eric Hall

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