Depression: Out of the Shadows

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AIRDATE: 9-11 p.m. Wednesday, May 21 (WNET New York KCET Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES — The TV schedule is filled with programs that are more entertaining than this one. For millions of people, though, none is more relevant.

This is a PBS special on depression, which afflicts about one out of every 12 adults, about 20 million Americans. If you don’t already know someone who
has it, chances are you will.

In the span of 90 minutes, writer-director-producer Larkin McPhee summarizes most of what is known about it and where new research is headed. Like any real disease, depression is traceable to a part of the body — in this case, the brain.

As you might expect, parts of the show are disturbing. People with
depression feel anxious, lonely, anguished, isolated and unable to believe that things will get better. Imagine the worst day of your life, says one expert. Now imagine that feeling never lifts.

McPhee speaks with people who have depression and the family of a suicide victim. They are young and old, rich and poor and of all ethnicities.

Doctors and researchers explain what this mental disorder is, how it makes you feel and the most common treatments. The good news: Nearly all cases are treatable. The bad news: It can take years to get the exact right treatment, and most people with clinical depression don’t seek help.

Along the way, McPhee dispels some widely held myths. For instance, talk therapy can be effective in many cases. And electroshock therapy (officially called electroconvulsive therapy) is safe and effective and often works in the most stubborn cases.

Well-organized and neatly edited, “Depression: Out of the Shadows” makes a solid contribution toward the understanding of one of America’s most widespread and least understood illnesses.

Following the program, Jane Pauley leads a half-hour discussion with three experts. Pauley’s own diagnosis of a bipolar disorder, a form of depression, was widely reported in 2004, and her questions are practical and to the point.

Twin Cities Public Television and WGBH Boston Executive producers: Laurie Donnelly, Phyllis Geller; PRODUCER-DIRECTOR-WRITERCQ: Larkin McPhee. Editor: Steve Fischer; Music: Michael Bacon; NARRATOR: Michael Murphy.

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