On depression

April 2 1984

On depression

April 2 1984

On depression


Depression’s pervasive and insidious presence in society today is on the increase. One of the ironies of alienation is that as the population increases, so do the lonely. It is frightening to imagine how many thousands of readers must have identified with The agony of depression (Cover, March 19). You state that almost all of us have experienced bouts of depression at some time in our lives. In light of this, I find it ironic that the word still carries such a stigma, but who isn’t reluctant to admit they feel worthless or have lost control over their own life? —HEATHER G. HODGSON,


With The agony of depression, Maclean's paints a depressingly tiresome picture. A woman cowers on the cover. A large photo accompanying the article is of a depressed female. You quote six depressed women—no men. You describe research done by six men and one woman. If, as the article goes on to state, “brain chemistry may actually induce certain types of depression,” then why is it that women are “afflicted six times more than men”? Is it just possible that women are simply not ashamed to show their emotions—no matter how extreme? Articles such as your cover story just reinforce stereotypes. —PAUL LIMA,

Barrie, Ont.

It was clear throughout your recent cover story that there is a now widely acknowledged interplay between psychological and biochemical causes of severe depression. Dr. Ronald Remick’s statements, however, indicate that he

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would throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. To reduce the treatment of this illness in 10 years to “a simple test” and a “course of drugs” is as simplistic as asking the bombs to prevent war without addressing the problem of who, or what, presses the buttons. —PETER O’LOUGHLIN,

UBC Health Sciences Hospital, Vancouver

It is unfortunate that a story as timely as The agony of depression should contain errors. The discovery that shock treatment (ECT) could “snap” people out of a depression was not made in the 1930s. Electroshock was not “discovered” until 1938, in the slaughterhouse of Mussolini’s Rome. Not until 1940 was it claimed to help depression, and then it was being “found useful” for everything from anorexia to shell shock. Dr. Matthew Rudorfer’s claim that shock “clearly works” has been disputed by other prominent doctors, from Frantz Fanon to Thomas Szasz. Shock treatment works all right. So does a baseball bat. -HUGH TAPPING,


Left is right

In your article on the New Democratic Party The NDP's fading fortunes (Canada, Jan. 30), not only have you outlined the current state of adversity facing the party but you also appear to have added insult to injury by failing to identify correctly a picture of party Leader Ed Broadbent. The caption indicates Broadbent to be on the right side of the photo, which also includes NDP MP Bill Blaikie, whereas in fact he is positioned to the left. Surely everyone must know that Broadbent would never allow himself to be photographed any place other than on the left of the picture.


Amiel and Goebbels’ conscience

It was not surprising that Barbara Amiel makes excuses for all things American, including the invasion of Grenada (A question of press credibility, Column, Feb. 20). But that she would justify that Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels “was guided by his conscience” can only make sense when one recalls the history of that period. Some German Jews involved in industry were of the opinion that there was nothing wrong with Hitler, that he had only made one mistake-persecuting the Jews. Amiel seems to ignore the fact that history has been found to repeat itself.

—R.A. STENNETT, Thunder Bay, Ont.

I was taken with A question of press credibility. As a member of the media for almost 40 years, at least 30 of those as a convert to small “c” conservatism, it is exhilarating to see a summation of the weaknesses shown by the current holders of the public trust laid to their true source—the fascination with trendyism or faddism. Above all, the admonition to “think” is most appropriate, although I fear many journalism schools and universities also tend to follow the temptation to tell their charges to “absorb” the current trends and forget the lessons of the past. How else are we to take the media’s ignoring of the lessons of the Hitler era and the Big Lie techniques and the propaganda from Soviet sources that are dutifully passed along as “news” to a now fully suspicious public? —CLIVE SCHAEFER,


Barbara Amiel’s analysis of press credibility is refreshingly accurate. Many journalists attack in all directions but display a knee-jerk defensiveness against any criticism of themselves. Even more serious are the faddish causes célèbres and opinion syndromes that the mass media frequently adopt as their own and on which they shower their favored attention, while ridiculing or ignoring opposing views. Amiel’s insight and candor give us hope.


Brockville, Ont.

Barbara Amiel’s article A question of press credibility mentioned that the media tend to make Americans feel bad about their own country, when, if we look around, there is no apparent reason to do so. I wonder if our society, so rich in many ways, likes to bathe itself in the luxury of self-discrimination. If so, perhaps the press took on the responsibility of upholding that tradition of the comfortably well-off. Or perhaps we should look at the individuals who make up the media. They are in the

business of processing history and they know it. Could it be that each tries to put his or her own mark on the product using that most marketable tool, antiAmericanism? Possibly it will not be long before we are called upon to support our country rather than comdemn it. — AL SECCO,

Penetang, Ont.

From oppressed to oppressor

Maclean’s is to be commended for devoting an article to Israel’s policy of taking reprisals against civilians for

“terrorist acts” (Conflicting claims to the West Bank, Dateline: Israel, Feb. 27). Though that policy has been in effect for several years on the West Bank, it is rarely covered to any great extent by the Western media. Your report, however, might have noted a few other things. First, the policy is in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions to take such reprisals against innocent civilians. Second, it is highly selective. For instance, when Jewish terrorists set bombs that blew the legs off of Bassam Shaka’a, or when other Jewish terrorists burst into a Palestinian university

last year and shot several people, did the Israeli army move in and demolish the nearest buildings occupied by Jews? Of course not. It would be unthinkable to apply the same brutal measures to innocent Jewish civilians on the West Bank as are routinely applied to innocent Palestinian civilians on the West Bank. — MICHAEL P. CARROLL,

London, Ont.

I believe the state of Israel was formed because of the collective guilt of the Western world countries for not doing anything about the oppression of the Jews by the Nazis. Now the oppressed have become the oppressors: tearing down homes, destroying the contents, throwing people off their land and selling it to Israeli settlers—all this on occupied land, and if these people resist they are called terrorists. I think it is time that these same Western world countries stood up and said, “No more.” —BARRY KENNINGTON, Hamilton, Ont.

Right message, wrong person

Your interview with Timothy Leary ( The case for intelligent drug use, Q&A, March 5) contained an important message—but from the wrong person. Perhaps Leary should be reminded that aborigines living in North and South America employed close to 200 mindaltering substances for thousands of years without the slightest indication of what we might term “abuse.” On the other hand, our ostensibly advanced civilization, which lacks a similar predisposition to the use of psychoactive drugs, continues to stumble with the problems of tobacco, marijuana and cocaine. Leary believes, “It is absolutely archaic and barbaric to be limiting ourselves” to such drugs. One might well ask how the development of new, synthetic compounds will improve intelligent drug use in a society that has not even learned how to use a handful of natural ones. Perhaps, instead of interviewing an ex-Harvard professor you should have questioned an elderly Indian in the jungles of central Brazil.

—ALEXANDER VON GERNET, Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal

Inflated emotions in Manitoba

I was disappointed at the coverage that your magazine gave to the Manitoba language debate (Manitoba's hitter divisions, Canada, Feb. 27). Manitoba contains a great many ethnic communities, many very centralized and attached to their traditions and languages. In spite of the opportunities for conflict that creates, the record shows excellent religious, ethnic and racial harmony in the province for the past 100 years. Had you

given that fact due weight, you might have realized that wholesale bigotry is simply not part of the Manitoba character, and searched a little less superficially for the reasons for the recent debacle. Even the most cursory examination should have made it clear that the vast majority of the furore was not anti-French but anti-amendment—a wholly justifiable outrage at having an unnecessary, very expensive, badly drafted constitutional amendment forced through our legislature, in spite of the expressed opposition of a majority of the people and apparently to satisfy only a small extremist lobby. Instead, you simply invoked the proper Liberal-trained, knee-jerk reflex and denounced all anti-amendment Manitobans as “hysterical” and “insecure.” Admittedly, the image of a poor, downtrodden minority makes much better press than another tale of government ineptitude. — BETH CRUIKSHANK,

Miami, Man.

The article Manitoba's hitter divisions was correct to place the emphasis on the “inflated emotions” that have resulted from Manitoba’s language impasse. From Dryden, Ont., close to Manitoba, we watched and listened to the months of debate over entrenching minimal (historic) French-language rights into the Constitution. Some suggested that outsiders had no right to comment, but, like it or not, the issue was, and is, national in scope and very timely. For many observers, it has been difficult to understand an opposition that seemed determined to define the province in such a narrow, self-centred way. Many were hoping that Manitoba would become Canada’s true cornerstone—a balance between extremes, both East and West. As the debate went on it became clear that there was genuine, if unfounded and exaggerated, fear—the uncertainty of eventually, perhaps, having to function in a bilingual Manitoba. Of course, “official” bilingualism would not have meant that at all. The proposed legislation was, in fact, just a modest gesture which would not have altered the character of Manitoba in any real way. The defeat of the issue was not a total victory for the reactionists. Out of the division can come a small move toward helping to define a vision of Canada as it was founded to be—a nation based on the blending of two great cultures and enriched by many diverse ethnic backgrounds.

—RALPH SHIELDS, Dryden, Ont.

Letters are edited and may be condensed. Writers should supply name, address and telephone number. Mail correspondence to: Letters to the Editor, Maclean's magazine, Maclean Hunter Bldg., 777 Bay St., Toronto, Ont. M5W1A7.