Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Journalistic laziness lets depressed people down

Mental health issues continue to be ransacked by the media for articles and news items, which often feature celebrities describing how dreadful it feels to be struck with depression or live with bipolar disorder.

A charity event took place at the Hay Festival at which Ruby Wax, Stephen Fry and Monty Don discussed their personal experiences of depression. Stephen Fry revealed that he has filmed whole episodes of QI whilst feeling like he "wanted to die" and Ruby Wax said that she would "give both legs never to experience this feeling again".

Getting celebrities to open up about their experience of depression is undoubtedly a worthy enterprise – it helps to break down the stigma of mental illness and makes those with depression feel less alone – but the media always seems to avoid focusing on exactly what depression is or how it can be lifted, information that could be really life-changing for sufferers of mental health problems.

A video about depression that we uploaded on our old YouTube channel* does explain the causes of depression and explodes a number of myths about this very human vulnerability. It has had well over 100,000 views.

The video was called "Too much REM sleep: Why do depressed people wake up exhausted?" In it Ivan Tyrrell summarised the link between depression, exhaustion and REM sleep, all delivered in the same clear and calm way a therapist should explain this concept to a depressed client.

The YouTube comments left beneath the video are a moving testament to the power this explanation has to change the lives of depressed people by clearly breaking down why they feel how they do:

"Wow this is so illuminating. I've had recurrent depression for years and recently have been in a pretty bad episode. I've been dreaming so vividly, long and complicated dreams and waking up exhausted. I've also been ruminating on the idea that my life is meaningless. So strange to hear all of what I've been struggling with in this video."

"I've been depressed before. I promised myself that when I left that depressed state of mind and became better that I would never revisit that place again. But its been around 4 yrs. A lot of change and a lot of negativity has led me to this place again. I lay in bed sleeping forever. I don't want to get out of bed. this [video] explains a lot. I need to deal with my depression again."

"I really wish that most people had the level of understanding and insight with regards to depression that this man does. It's an illness that is so common and yet so perplexing for the majority of people."

"This guy knows what he's talking about. Describes me perfectly."

"I have to say that was so "right on the bullseye" it was actually refreshing! Thanks for the education."

"This guy is so dead on, I dream like a madman. I dream dream dream and I wake up tired. I work in an office catching credit card fraud. It takes a lot of mental energy that I don't have. I don't feel like I have motivation I feel like dead weight, and I dream a lot. Thanks for your interesting theory."

"Amazing! This video accurately pinpoints how I feel. I always wake up exhausted in the morning from a night of very intense dreaming. I've always wondered why my dreams are so intense..
I've suffered from depression for most of my life, but no psychiatrist has ever been interested in any other form of treatment than medication."

Affirming, and more importantly, explaining, a depressed person's direct experience is a powerful tool because knowledge itself is power. It’s a pity journalists and TV programme makers don’t make the effort to do this.

Once you learn about the cycle of depression (which I summarised recently here) and can understand exactly why you are feeling meaningless, unmotivated and physically exhausted, your perspective on depression changes. Depression then becomes something tangible, changeable, a cycle that can therefore be disrupted and broken. It's even possible to 'inoculate yourself' against future depression once you know how and when it occurs.

The human givens approach to wellbeing and the connection between REM sleep and depression provides an invaluable starting point to psychotherapy for depression, but also gives great insight into 'self help', which is why we wrote the '
How to lift Depression ... fast' book.

If you want to learn more about the human givens approach to depression and the link between depression and REM sleep, please visit the website which is packed with information and ideas for anyone who works with depressed people or those who suffer from depression. We also offer an understanding the cycle of depression workshop for GPs, counsellors and psychotherapists. 

And if you are researching for an article or TV programme, please talk to us.

*This was our MindFields channel. That College no longer exists and we now train from Human Givens College. It was decided to leave the old YouTube account open as we felt that the videos were too valuable a resource to delete.


  1. People, no matter how high their stature in life is, should never be ridiculed when it comes to their mental health conditions. Because it will not only be those certain people who you'll be shooting at, it's the entire populace affected by that certain condition.