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Last Thursday I attended a panel discussion at MIT entitled "LISTENING TO DEPRESSION: An Interdisciplinary Look at a Mental Health Crisis". The panel was followed by hour long one-on-one conversations with one of the speakers. Each had their own room so you could pick which speaker you wanted to hear more from. I unfortunately booked myself for another event that night, so I only heard the panel presentations.

I forgot the notepad I usually take to such events and instead ended up scribbling notes into my Palm T2. I still don't like that format as much for capturing thoughts (I skipped trying to use graffiti and just scribbled in notepad). It doesn't have as much room and despite my best attempts the handwriting always comes out worse. As a result I don't have that many notes (along with the fact that I had deleted entries from my Palm after typing them up last night, which I managed to lose):

Kathryn Madden spoke first about a relationship between religion and depression. Stating that from her experience those with deeply held religious beliefs had hastened recovery from depression. She also felt that depression was a symptom of a diseased society, where the root cause was the increasing correlation between happiness and materialism. Echoing themes from The High Price of Materialism. She also talked about the idea that some depressions stem from the unconscious mind's troubles bubbling up into the conscious mind. The thought being that you need to discover this "primal agony", understand it to have a "symbolic death", to finally see "the light behind the darkness". This process makes various allusions to religious themes. I felt that her talk was the least concrete of the three. While I agreed with some of her thoughts I don't think the overall presentation was fleshed out enough to drive home any of the points she was trying to make.

Richard Kadison spoke primarily about the state of mental health on campuses. He stressed the importance of getting students, faculty, and anyone that might come in contact with other students, engaged. Make sure that everyone can easily get good information. Depression is affecting younger people, a recent study found 20% of high school students had thought about suicide. I don't remember the exact metric for it, but it was something like having thought about it a majority of the days within the past two weeks. Sleep deprivation is also thought to lead to increase risk/severity of depression. Import to find ways to get students in any door. Freshman programs need to stress the importance of Eating, Sleeping, and Exercise.

David Mischoulon dove into depth about what depression is, how it is classified, what drugs are available, and in general gave a very technical overview of depression. 10-25% of women and 5-12% of men will suffer from depression at some point in their life. Causes for the increased rate of women are not completely known. Antidepressants mostly just work. Usually takes 2-4 weeks before effects are seen, but in general 50-70% of people will respond positively to a drug and 12-15% will have a partial positive response. There is some variation so it is important to find the right treatment, which in many cases may not require medication at all.

Overall I thought the presentations were reasonable. I suspect if had been able to stay for a one-on-one conversation I would have gotten more out of the program.