Monday, February 11, 2008

A Snapshot of "Out of the Darkened Room"

by William Beardslee

The light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out John 1:5 Philips Translation

When parents become depressed, they bear a double burden. Even as they wrestle with the darkness that clouds their lives, they must struggle to maintain their role as guardians of their children's future.

As part of a project at work, we've been working with Dr Beardslee, the author of this book, to think about depression in a specific Boston population, and as part of this we read Out of the Darkened Room. For me, it was a great source of insight: both in understanding depression in the Boston area, and understanding depression in the context of the family.

I wanted to mention this book's message here because I think depression is a part of every family, albeit in different ways. Our purpose was to think through how family conversation about depression might be adapted to help Somali families work through depression, or even other kinds of mental illness. The premise here is that different families, and different cultural contexts, may need a different approach.

This book does not offer clear-cut simple solutions to depression. It says, some families suffer terribly from this disease. It says, the depression of one person can have profound consequences for those near that person. It says, things don't always work out well. But it also says, do not be afraid of working through this because you feel so hopeless. It says, things are never hopeless, there is always opportunities to make even tiny piecemeal changes that will positively impact your family.

Dr Beardslee describes the fears of families under his care. He respects that, in the midst of depression, a parent may not feel up for much and says "that's ok"! What he does suggest is preparing family conversations that speak explicitly about the fears, feelings and experiences of family members about their parent's depression. This conversation may look very different depending on the age of the children and the preference of the parent, but what is important is that it happens, that the conversation continues, and that the parent who is depressed prepares exactly how s/he believes they may best help the family move forward.

He found in his work that those families who had these conversation were much more likely to have children grow up free from severe clinical depression. This made his work unique: it is about preventing
depression amongst those with close family members who suffer from the disease.

He also found that those who spoke about depression in the family explicitly, explaining what bothered them most and reassuring them, were able to experience a unique closeness because of what they had had to expose and work through in themselves. Beardslee also uses a lot of examples so that families need not feel as though their case is too extreme or too impossible.

Depression should not be something that remains in the shadows. I highly recommend this book for discovering some of the ways that a family can better work through clinical depression, or even for thinking about how to have more empathy for a family you know.

Coming soon, views of:
Collapse by Jared Diamond
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

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