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I recently came across an article that highlights some misconceptions about depression. The story is basically this; a woman in the US is off work for depression, getting getting wages covered by an insurance company. But at some point, the insurance company looks at photo’s posted on Facebook, and it appears they decide she looks “too happy” to be depressed, and so they stop covering her, despite the fact she was doing the activities in the photos at the suggestion of her doctor.

Now, I’d be hesitant to make a judgment call about all of this on the basis of one article, but it does bring out some interesting issues.

For a start, it looks like the company may not have a clear understanding of what depression is. While ‘anhedonia’ – a diminished capacity to experience pleasure – is one of the symptoms of depression, there is a lot more to depression than ‘never going out and having fun’. People with depression may have more difficulty doing enjoyable things, and ‘having fun’ may be a part of recovery for some with depression, but to boil down depression to not looking happy – and specifically not having happy looking Facebook photos – is just crazy.

And I guess what is worries me about this story is that it looks like the insurance company is effectively discouraging proper recovery. One can imagine the poor woman struggling with depression, managing to find the energy to enjoy a few good evenings, and perhaps starting to feel like life is good. Suddenly in swoops an insurance company and ruins it all, and tells her to stop enjoying life, to stop doing what she needs to do to get through depression.

Of course, this is all based on a news report, and may be a little on the sensationalist side. However, this story highlights the importance of understanding depression – and an individual’s own experience – before anyone can decide whether someone fits their model of depression.

I just came across an article discussing an intervention aimed at reducing post partum depression in mothers. Basically, mothers who had been through post partum depression received training, then regularly called new mothers. While 25% of ‘high risk’ mothers receiving usual care reported reported significant depressive symptoms, only 14% of ‘high risk’ mothers who received peer support reported significant symptoms.

Peer support is a big part of what the depression support network offers, so it’s good to see it’s effectiveness demonstrated in studies. The research also reminds us of the importance of keeping up contact with others when we’re going through tough times.

September 2020