Depression is not really like herpes

I admire NZ comedian Mike King a great deal for his work breaking down the stigma associated with mental illness. Drawing on their own experiences, King and rugby great Sir John Kirwan have done more than anyone in New Zealand to spread awareness of mental health and to encourage taciturn Kiwis to seek help. Bravo. 

Mike King and I engaged on a Twitter today as you can see below:

There were a few follow up tweets where King got a tad defensive, but that's not important. What matters, I think, is that the notion that depression is a lifelong affliction – "once you've got it, you've got it for life" – is misleading and unhelpful. 

Some people suffer depression over the long-term, including me. But it is not accurate to say "once you've got it, you've got it for life" . Many people experience a single depressive episode over a lifetime. Take this widely-cited research from 2007 funded by the National Institutes of Health which estimated that 70 percent of subjects reporting depression only endure one or two episodes. Recurrent, long-term depression is not uncommon by any means, but nor is it inevitable. It doesn't seem in the public interest, let alone the interests of someone who might take it to mean a lifetime of suffering awaits them, to claim otherwise.