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Charles Saatchi ‘Depression is anger without enthusiasm’ – A Response

Come on, Charlie, give us a grin

I quite like Charles Saatchi. In fact, he’s my favourite ad man come art collector come TV cook spouse. His west London modern art gallery is entirely bonkers and I especially enjoyed his 2009 show School of Saatchi – an X Factor for Art, but with fewer egos – if only for discovering eccentric artists like the eventual winner Eugenie Scrase.

Saatchi’s Evening Standard column is often a great, if sometimes puzzling read – however, one of his most recent articles (‘Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm’, 12th July 2012) really struck me. Saatchi captures the rootless existence, pressures and feelings of isolation that plague young people, which can contribute towards depression, and the futility of bottling such feelings up.

I recently interviewed psychiatrist and journalist Dr Max Pemberton for a student newspaper, who said “coming to university is very difficult, there’s a massive expectation that they’re supposed to have great fun, but in reality it’s really traumatising at times – it’s a big transition from living at home to then living independently.”

“Part of the stigma is the idea that it’s not a real condition, it’s not a real illness, and someone should pull their socks up, knuckle down and get on with it. That’s very pervasive things and that’s something that needs to be challenged.”

“We need to in some way break down this artificial distinction between what is mental health and what is physical health, because it’s like saying there’s leg health and there’s arm health – it just doesn’t work like that.”

Saatchi says ‘depression is merely anger without enthusiasm’ – it’s easy to romanticise the tragedy of depression, but to do so is foolish. There’s nothing poetic about suffering in silence. There’s nothing manly about burying your feelings. There’s no point in grinning and bearing.

Being young is a turbulent experience, whether you’re having trouble finding a job, struggling to study, a victim of bullying or worried about drink or drugs, many factors can contribute to a depression.

Optimism is key, says Saatchi. One free online dictionary defines optimism as seeing the best in the situation. I slightly disagree. Saatchi quotes Winston Churchill, who quite neatly defined a pessimist as seeing the difficulty in every opportunity, and an optimist as seeing the opportunity in every difficulty.

Optimism doesn’t mean hoping things will get better. Optimism doesn’t mean ignoring the problem and struggling on. Optimism doesn’t mean settling for second best.

Optimism is asking for help. Optimism is seeing your GP, talking to friends and family, trying therapy. Optimism is realising that things can get better.

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