Depression has become the most frequently diagnosed chronic mental illness, and is a disability encountered almost daily by mental health professionals of all trades. Major depression is a medical disease, which some would argue has reached epidemic proportions in contemporary society, and it affects our bodies and brains just like any other disease. The Age of Melancholy asks why the incidence of depression has been on such an increase in the last 50 years, if our basic biology hasn't changed as rapidly. To find answers, Dr. Blazer looks at the social forces, cultural and environmental upheavals, and other external, group factors that have undergone significant change. In so doing, the author revives the tenets of social psychiatry, the process of looking at social trends, environmental factors, and correlations among groups in efforts to understand psychiatric disorders. The biomedical model of psychiatry that has dominated the field for the past half-century has faced minimal scrutiny, due in part to the apparent advances made in the treatment of mental health issues during that time. But, Dr.
Blazer eloquently argues, there is still room for a "new" social psychiatry to complement and complete the model, and he points to two concurrent trends for support: during the same 50-year period that saw the "death of social psychiatry," the rate of occurrence and increasing medicalization of depression as a secluded individual's issue have brought us to the Prozac era. In making the case for the connection of these two trends (both the products themselves of larger social and cultural movements), the author proposes a return of a new, more mature social psychiatry, to complete - not replace - the biomedical and clinical research models in place today. This book is eminently readable, and should appeal to a broader audience than the psychiatrists, clinicians, and researchers who will make up the primary audience. While replete with the standard mental health references, sound research, and authored by a recognized and respected professional, the ease of language and range of examples make this text accessible to a lay reader. This book should have cross-over appeal in sociology as well as social work and psychology.
Dan G. Blazer, M.D., Ph.D., is J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Blazer is also an Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina. A Past President of the American Geriatrics Society, Dr. Blazer is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, and is the author of 26 books and almost 300 peer-reviewed articles.