by Martin H. Levenson, Ph.D.
Andrew Solomon, in this well-documented, comprehensive book, offers a compellingly readable analysis and description of depression -– a disease that is the leading cause of disability in the United States and abroad for persons over the age of five.
Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, physicians and researchers, policy-makers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Solomon exposes the nuanced complexities and terrible agony of the disease. He also addresses questions regarding the definition of the illness, the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the infirmity has had on various populations around the world and through the course of history. And he explores the sundry moral and ethical questions posed by the developing biological explanations for mental illness.
In the final chapter, titled “Hope,” Solomon addresses the complex nature of depression – “There is an interaction between illness and personality; some people can tolerate symptoms that would destroy others; some people can tolerate hardly anything. Some people seem to give in to their depression; others seem to battle it. Since depression is highly demotivating, it takes a certain survivor impulse to keep going through the depression, not to cave in to it. A sense of humor is the best indicator that you will recover; it is often the best indicator that people will love you. Sustain that and you have hope.”
The novelist William Styron, who has written his own book on depression, states that The Noonday Demon is “An amazingly rich and absorbing work… In its flow of insights and its scope.” I heartily concur with that assessment.