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Book Forum: The Patient’s Perspective   |    
Beating Depression: The Journey to Hope
DONALD D. DENTON, Jr., D.Min.
Am J Psychiatry 2003;160:1533-a-1534. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.160.8.1533-a
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Richmond, Va.

By Maga Jackson-Triche, M.D., M.S.H.S., Kenneth B. Wells, M.D., M.P.H., and Katherine Minnium, M.P.H. New York, McGraw-Hill, 2002, 204 pp., $14.95 (paper).

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This volume has one persistent message about depression: Recovery is the rule, not the exception. This message is reiterated in chapter after chapter and reinforced with easy-to-read charts. The eight chapters cover the topic with surprising thoroughness while maintaining an easy-to-read style. There is a marked absence of clinical jargon, but the book retains an authoritative examination of America’s number-one mental health problem.

The direction of this volume is not merely to describe depression and its root causes. Rather, the volume provides anyone who reads it with very workable tools to evaluate their own level of depression, review the standard options for treatment, and gain an informed assessment regarding the course of their recovery from depression. Laying out the biochemical underpinnings of depression, the authors nevertheless stress the importance of making behavioral changes in one’s lifestyle and cognitive changes in one’s self-image as necessary components to fully treating depression. In the chapter "Ten Things I Can Do to Help Myself," the recommendation to "Follow doctor and therapist recommendations" is number 9—a no-doubt intentional placement that reinforces the hope-filled "take charge of your recovery" message resonating throughout the book.

Two other chapters deserve special mention. "Coping With Special Issues" is a chapter devoted to examining depression in children, the elderly, during pregnancy, and as a reaction to trauma. These areas are routine breeding grounds for depression, areas where we too easily assume someone just "has the blues" or is "going through a phase" rather than recognizing the presence of depression. This chapter also addresses the topic of suicidal thoughts in a brief but realistic fashion. The chapter titled "Living With Depression" focuses on matters of privacy in the workplace for people as they seek treatment for depression. This chapter also honestly discusses the topic of how difficult it is for the family member of someone who has chronic depression.

What would be the most useful way to use this book? I have placed it in our agency’s waiting room. It provides more detailed information about depression than the "Am I Depressed?" pamphlets we often find in waiting rooms. More importantly, it also provides concrete ways patients can alter their personal habits to beat depression.

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