Sort-of Review: Manufacturing Depression

This is less a review of Gary Greenberg’s 2010 book Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease, and more a description of what I loved about it and why it was useful to me.

The book’s title suggests that Greenberg doesn’t believe depression is a real affliction, but that is not at all the crux of the book. The feelings and struggles are very real, and he doesn’t hesitate to share his own history of depression in great detail. While Greenberg’s analysis does not spare Big Pharma, he does not argue that depression is a profit-driven illusion.

Instead he elucidates how profit-driven scientific research and discovery shaped our collective and individual understandings of depression, its role in our lives, and whether/how to cope with it. He illustrates how a lot of psycho-pharmaceutical research involves discovering neurological reactions, then creating conceptual definitions for conditions whose effects would be reversed or mitigated by those reactions.

Greenberg deftly integrates surprisingly colourful research about the science and business of depression with provocative anecdotes about his personal experiences with it (as a sufferer and as a psychologist). There may or may not be a really entertaining and touching story about how taking ecstasy helped him feel emotionally awake and connect with his partner again.

He is a verbose storyteller (which is maybe part of why I like him…) but his tales are vivid, relatable, and sometimes hilarious. He encourages readers to formulate their own narratives for their mental health journeys, and to consider but not confine themselves to definitions and solutions offered by the industries and professionals that diagnose and treat mental health.

Since it’s that day where we all talk about mental health (can we do that more, please?!), it seemed like the perfect time to recommend this book to anyone interested in these issues for personal development or just food for thought.

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