Review of The Noonday demon: An Atlas of Depression
By Robert Sealey
as appearing in Open Minds Quarterly Fall 2003, Vol V, Issue III, p. 24

Andrew Solomon is an American magazine writer and book author. He confesses that he is a mood disorder survivor with a vulnerability to depression and anxiety. The title of this book suggests that the book can be a map to guide readers. Indeed, this book covers the geography, history, psychology, biology and sociology of depression - from the author's perspective, as well as the perspectives of other patients, health professionals, and authors. Solomon's exquisite writing, personal awareness, and prolific coverage of the depth and breadth of depression could justify the subtitle of An Encyclopedia of Depression.

Using his firsthand experiences and interviews with other patients, the author writes about depression, breakdowns, treatments (conventional and alternative), addiction, suicide, history, poverty, politics, evolution, and hope. The author shares voluminous research, detailed notes and an extensive bibliography. Rather than waffling about difficult topics, the author takes a definitive stand. He shares what he learned during repeated episodes of depression. He compares his experiences with other patients. He interviews experts and outlines the literature in the field of mental health. The author tells it like it is and clearly outlines what is known and has yet to be discovered. He shares helpful information without offering false hope.

Solomon reports that various factors can causes depression. Some people succumb when there are multiple causes. Depending on their triggers, individual patients often benefit from appropriates treatments, competently applied. Incompetently applied, sick patients risk deterioration. The author investigated a variety of treatments. Antidepressant medications and talk therapies are two conventional approaches which help him. He also investigated a range of alternative treatments and he enjoyed some benefit from EMDR and social rituals.

The author's story is fascinating. Few writers describe the painful experience of depression and anxiety as vividly or accurately. Few deal with the paradoxical effects of antidepressant medications which can numb the pain of depression but often cause negative effects. Few share the painful loss of a family member to suicide. Not content sharing his own experiences on this matter, Andrew Solomon interviewed other patients: some from his country and some from aboard, some with his background and some from other cultures. Each story is fascinating in its own right. These accounts broaden the reader's understanding of the fallible human beings who are vulnerable to depression. Once kindled, episodes of depression can recur with successively weaker triggers. Readers learn that depression is a universal human condition but there is hope for recovery. Solomon suggests that a person who is vulnerable to depression would be wise to learn about their fallibilities and develop a mental health maintenance program of medications, therapy and support from family and friends.

by R Sealey, BSc, CA
author of Finding Care for Depression - Mental Episodes & Brain Disorders and 90 Day Plan for Finding Quality Care and Depression Survivor's Kit

Robert Sealey, BSc, CA is an independent consultant in North York offering accounting, tax and planning services. His mental accounting and consulting services help people cope with depression, mental episodes or brain disorders or care for family members. Bob authors the SEAR series of layman’s guides.

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