Keywords: Mental health, mental illness, depression, suicide, self-care, new diagnosis, treatment, patient responsibility, patient empowerment.
Citation: Linden M. Book review: Depression: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed. J Participat Med. 2012 Aug 22; 3:e17.
Published: August 22, 2012.
Competing Interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.
In reading Depression: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed by Lee H. Coleman, PhD, ABPP, I found myself nodding in agreement much of the time. The author comprehensively covers aspects of depression from diagnosis and treatment to suicide, comorbid conditions, and everything in between. His writing is conversational and contains no “psychobabble.” It is clear that if people are reading the book they are interested in taking their health and wellness into their own hands. Coleman’s focus is completely on what a person with depression can do to obtain the right diagnosis, treatment plan, therapist and/or doctor, support system, and understanding of the disorder. Coleman uses his own expertise as a clinical psychologist and that of other experts to pull together information about which many people with depression may want to know.
The most challenging thing about reading this book relates to taking responsibility. When we are depressed, we resist taking responsibility for our own health. It’s been a part of my own pattern for as long as I can remember. Blaming things on the system is an easy way out for me. But I’ve learned, through the last few years of therapy, that I am not powerless; I can always do something!
Coleman organized his book in a very readable way. He defines depression first, then moves on to getting diagnosed. He tells the reader what to tell the practitioner/psychiatrist/therapist to facilitate receiving the best possible treatment. And he does this without judgment and without an authoritarian tone. But he is clearly an authority, making him someone a person would want to listen to.
While reading Coleman’s book, I thought about the initial years of my diagnosis and whether I would heed his advice if I were recently diagnosed with depression. I’d get to certain parts of the book, such as the part about practicing mindfulness, and I thought I would have rebelled against that suggestion early on. Now, seven years later, I get it.
I appreciate the way Coleman understands human differences and mentions and doesn’t speak in absolutes. For instance, Coleman stated, “It’s important to notice some of the ways that depression can go hand-in-hand with certain ways of thinking about the world. For instance, depressed people tend… [page 15].” Notice he used the words “can” and “tend,” not putting thoughts or realities on the reader. I believe reading about my experience on my own terms and deciding whether something fits for me or not really makes me feel like reading what the author has to say.
Occasionally, Coleman wrote something that would have thrown a monkey wrench into my reading of the book; it would have torqued my spine. “Despite all of these complex potential causes, I want to argue that it usually doesn’t matter very much what initially triggers depression in a person[page 15].” I know early on I would have felt offended by that because I personally felt I needed to know how I got this way. After dealing with it for some time, I see his point and I agree; but there just may be some things that don’t feel right when you read them. Don’t let those ruin the book for you. There is a plethora of information offered in a caring, sensitive way.
One of the unique parts to the book is Coleman’s inclusion of the PHQ-9, a personal health questionnaire to help one prepare for the trip to the doctor. In every way, Coleman is giving the reader a vocabulary to improve treatment and personal health. When Coleman deals with the topic of suicide, he includes a section on decreasing one’s risk for suicide as well as a section on increasing barriers to suicidal tendencies. He speaks very candidly about suicide, which is a breath of fresh air. One can’t easily write a proactive self-help book for people with depression without talking openly about suicide. As much as people are afraid to speak of suicide, it does need to be discussed. There is a section on support for persons who are suicidal, including what not to say, how to question a suicidal person, and when to get help.
My favorite thing about Depression: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed was Coleman’s written voice. He was matter of fact and nonjudgmental while offering expert suggestions to the reader. He comes across as non-assuming and not self-righteous.
My guess is most people in the beginning stages of being diagnosed will get something from the book. I believe even more people will find it helpful as they begin to really dig in and deal with being diagnosed.
1. Coleman LH. Depression: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications; 2012.
Copyright: © 2012 Meredith Linden. Published here under license by The Journal of Participatory Medicine. Copyright for this article is retained by the author, with first publication rights granted to the Journal of Participatory Medicine. All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. By virtue of their appearance in this open-access journal, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings.