Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Japanese Prisoner Camps

Depression is a torturous experience.  I can remember my experiences with depression.  For most of my teenage years, I was depressed.  I remember talking to my mother about seeing a therapist when I was probably 13 or 14.  She talked to our family physician, Dr. Kupinger, who recommended against it.  It was considered too much of a stigma, and that it would have a negative affect on my future.  
I struggled on.  Over the years, my self esteem grew.  Graduate school helped my self image immensely.  Then, when my mother died and I mourned her, the entire depression lifted off of me.  On my website I have a video, Crash Course on Depression, which offers my understanding of depression.  
Over the years I have learned a great deal about depression.  But my most confusing piece of knowledge came from my mentor.  Carl Whitaker, M.D. once told us a perplexing story about depression.  With little explanation he told us about Japanese Prisoner of War camps.  He knew that the story was somewhat controversial.  I think because of it, he never tried to explain it.    
During World War II, Japan had 7 prisoner of war camps for American G.I.s.  They were horrible places with little hope.  It was common for a young soldier to get so depressed that he would stop eating, functioning and shortly, die.  This happened at all 7 camps.  However, one camp discovered that they could save the life of their brother.  
In this one camp, when they observed one of their own slipping into the black hole of despair, his close friends would commit to helping him.  That night, they would take him outside and beat the hell out of him.  They would hit him, kick him, stomp on him and generally bring him within an inch of his life.  Supposedly, this never failed.  Having been brought so close to death, the G.I. would bounce back with a new will to live.  The depression would lift and he would actively engage in life again.  
Depression requires support and assurance.  It also requires courage.