“Depression” is a widely used term these days—by doctors and the public alike. But what does it really mean? Who is suffering? And what are we, as a society, doing about it?
As Mary Cregan ’78 points out in the preface to her debut memoir, The Scar: A Personal History of Depression and Recovery, nearly 11 percent of Americans aged 18 to 25 in 2016 “experienced a major depressive episode (as did 9 percent of adolescents from 12 to 17 and 6.7 percent of the general adult population).” Those numbers have continued to grow in the years since, not including the many who go undiagnosed. Add to that the growing correlation between depression and our national suicide rate, and these statistics begin to look potentially epidemic.
That Cregan opens her book with an emphasis on national statistics and her journalistic hunger for the why of depression immediately sets it apart from other memoirs. Rather than make this story solely about the tragic loss of her newborn daughter from a heart defect two days after her birth—and Cregan’s subsequent despair, attempted suicide, psychiatric treatment, and years-long recovery—the author uses her personal experience as a road map for examining broader issues around depression. It is a highly researched and scientifically founded approach to understanding not just what happened to her but what is happening—on an ever-increasing scale—to a larger representative society today.
Cregan’s is a frank and engaging account of what depression looks like today and how we can be better prepared to address the disease in the future.