I'm working with a colleague to analyze some focus groups he conducted in which people talk about their communication with their physicians. I'm working mostly with the ones that were conducted in Spanish, but that's largely beside the point for this post. I'll give you my English translation of the material. We had two groups consisting of people who had a college education, and two groups consisting of people with limited formal education. The moderator asked them to explain what the term "depression" means to them. Here are typical reponses from the smarty-pants people with ejumukashin:
It is a mental state caused by stress or a traumatic event. It is a state of hopelessness.
It’s a very complicated term, you have to know a bit [lit. the dregs] of psychology in order to understand what is happening to you. At first I thought that depression had a biological component but now I know that it has a social component.
To sleep many hours, not to want to get up, to use a lot of drugs, not to respond to the stimuli of daily life.
It is an electro-chemical change in the levels of the neurotransmitter.
The levels of serotonin are lacking, serotonin levels that the brain does not produce.
And here's the sort of thing the unschooled rabble had to say:
Well for me it's that -- it's like I dont have the spirit to do anything, except to be seated, that nobody talk to me, that they don't say anything to me, to be thrown there in an armchair, and that nobody say anything to me.
Okay, often depression makes a person not want to get up out of bed, uh, it lowers the self esteem as though one were nothing. As though nobody likes one, uh, he/she doesn't want to eat, doesn't even want to bathe. I know people, including me at times I have gotten a very strong depression, such that I don't want to get out.
Depression is truly as they say, that one does not wish to go out, but to me I get it with leaving the house, because if I am at home I feel that I, that I am, that I drown. It pleases me to be accompanied, conversing with someone or to go out, you know. Because then if I stay at home I feel that it’s as though the walls are pressing in on me.
Well, it’s when a person has problems and stays quiet, doesn’t talk with anybody, every moment he feels worse and there are times that the physicians—one goes to the doctor and the medications don’t work, as happened to me once. I – they gave me the medicine but I didn’t benefit, I stopped going to the appointments and everything because the medicine didn’t do anything for me. And they if they give medicines to one and one adapts to those medicines. It drives one crazier. Because I saw when I was at the appointments now an old woman said, well she was an older lady but not so old, and she said, “Oh, I want my medicines because I can’t sleep without those medicines,” then what it does is that the people adapt to those medicines, you can’t quit them. One has to try to control oneself.
It’s good to go out to walk and converse with people. You are outside! You are conversing. Now I don’t go out much but we always used to go out, with her … one subject after another, we’d go there and . .. we always had a lot of friends around, you know? And so I don’t get depressed much.
I don't know about you, but I'd much rather have this discussion with the uneducated people. They respond with their lived experience, and the experience of their families and friends. The educated respondents give dictionary definitions and etiological theories, cold abstractions, and keep their distance from it all. I don't learn anything from them.