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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Churchill’s Unlikely Source of Success: The Black Dog

Would you believe me if I said World War II may have been won as a result of something as simple as a black dog? No, not the black dog as in the barking canine. The term “black dog” was made infamous by Winston Churchill when he used it to describe his periods of depression. The term is still in use today as synonymous with depression.

Churchill was born into a family that had a history of mental illness. His father had symptoms of schizophrenia and his daughter was also diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Churchill referred to his own mental illness, as his “black dog” (NAMI). Churchill used his experience with depression to construct a realistic analysis of the different threats from the warring states during World War II. It was his depression that convinced him of Hitler’s threatening outlook and intentions. While the rulers before Churchill tried to appease Hitler, hoping that it may be enough to stop the war, Churchill actively resisted Hitler’s regime (NAMI). Because of his “black dog”, Churchill had enough insight to realize that Hitler could not be stopped through the simple means those before him had attempted.

His psychiatrist, Anthony Storr, also explained how Churchill used depression to help him make vital political decisions. Storr states, “Only a man who knew what it was to discern a gleam of hope in a hopeless situation, whose courage was beyond reason and whose aggressive spirit burned at its fiercest when he was hemmed in and surrounded by enemies, could have given emotional reality to the words of defiance which rallied and sustained us in the menacing summer of 1940.”

As the National Alliance of Mental Illness states, “It was Churchill’s experience with mental illness that ultimately allowed him to be a successful leader…Churchill’s depressive realism helped change the course of world history. He not only refused to submit to his black dog, he was able to use it to his advantage.”  Churchill’s example is a wonderful illustration of learning from, overcoming, attaining strength, and reaching success from a mental illness. As Churchill himself says, “Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts”. Churchill’s courage to overcome his black dog of depression may very well have changed the course of history forever.

 

References:

NAMI. “Winston Churchill and his “Black Dog” that Helped Win World War II.” . National Alliance on Mental Illness, n.d. Web. 4 May 2014.

Categories
Autism Spectrum Disorder

Taking Courage in the Home of the Brave

The Land of Opportunity, The Land of Freedom, and The Land of Milk and Honey are all common nicknames for the United States of America; however this promising nation of 313.9 million people [1] is also a nation with one of the highest rates of major depressive disorder in the world [2]. As many as 1 in 10 people in the United States suffer from depression [2], yet not much is being done to eradicate the stigma that surrounds this illness.

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic
http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic

So what is depression? It’s much more than the context we are used to hearing it in and goes far beyond just being sad or upset. There are many different types of depression, but the most common symptoms of depression are a sudden loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, thoughts of suicide, and prolonged feelings of desolation, hopelessness, and worthlessness [3].  The effects of depression do not end with its symptoms, and in many states there are strong correlations between rates of depression and rates of obesity, heart disease, stroke, sleeping disorders, lack of education, and less access to medical insurance [2]. 

60-80% of all cases of depression can easily be treated with brief psychotherapy and antidepressants. But the worst part is that over 80% of the people who suffer from symptoms of depression are not even receiving treatment for it [2]! You may be wondering why this is. Many times it is because of the label they are given by society; the stigma surrounding this illness.  The unfortunate reality is that this stigma, this disgrace associated with a particular aspect of a one’s very being is far too prevalent in today’s society. Those who suffer from clinical depression, have to deal not only with the hardships associated with their ailment, but also the stigma and labels given to them by an ignorant society. For those who suffer from depression and the stigma associated with it, although they are living in this world with 7 billion other human beings, they feel absolutely alone and therefore suffer alone. Many times people tend to disregard those who may be suffering from clinical depression as just “a negative person” and because such a stigma exists towards, those who are actually suffering from it, avoid seeking the help they need in order to avoid being associated with these labels.

This stigma becomes a very heavy burden on the individual, and in many cases pushes a person to avoid treating their ailment— either through medication, or through therapy– altogether.  To those who suffer from depression, and to the society at large, I urge you to take courage in this Home of the Brave, maintain a positive outlook, and eradicate these stigmas once and for all.

 

[1] “Population (Total) Data | Table.” The World Bank. The World Bank Group, n.d. Web. 6 Feb 2014. <http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL>.

[2] “Unhappiness by the Numbers.” Healthline. Healthline, n.d. Web. 6 Feb 2014. <http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic>.

[3] “Depression and College Students.” NIMH. National Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 6 Feb 2014. <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-and-college-students/index.shtml>.

[4] Image: 2012. Graphic. BioQuick NewsWeb. 18 Feb 2014. <http://www.bioquicknews.com/node/885>.