Depression is widespread. According to the World Health Organization, in 2015 depression affected more than 300 million people, or 5.1 per cent of females and 3.6 per cent of males, worldwide. It was the single largest contributor to global disability, and the major cause of the nearly 800,000 deaths by suicide recorded every year – suicide being the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds.
Despite these statistics, depression remains misunderstood by the public at large and is, it seems, best described by those who have lived it. The novelist William Styron wrote in his memoir Darkness Visible (1990) that: ‘For those who have dwelt in depression’s dark wood, and known its inexplicable agony, their return from the abyss is not unlike the ascent of the poet, trudging upward and upward out of hell’s black depths.’ Andrew Solomon’s memoir The Noonday Demon (2001) is a useful tome and the book on depression for the public at large. ‘It is the aloneness within us made manifest,’ he writes of the state, ‘and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself.’Aeon