Tracking depression and its personal toll

Washington Post

Filmmaker Larkin McPhee, struck by the different forms that depression takes, said she set out to show TV viewers the many ways the disorder can affect lives.

Her new documentary, “Depression: Out of the Shadows,” tracks a diverse group of people coping with the disease. It airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on KCET-TV.

“Depressed” is overused, she said. “English is one of the richest languages and yet we use this word very liberally, often to mean something other than this serious, complicated disease.”

To illustrate the reach of the illness, she shows viewers the stories of depression sufferers. Among them: novelist Andrew Solomon, whose mother’s death triggered his depression and left him unable to work or care for himself; Ellie Zuehlke, whose bout with postpartum depression after the birth of her first child led her to thoughts of suicide; and 17-year-old Hart Lipton, who, while in sixth grade, suddenly became depressed and was eventually diagnosed with a bipolar disorder.

McPhee said that adolescent depression differs from the late onset of the disorder because “the body and brain age and behave differently as you get older.”

Following the 90-minute program, journalist Jane Pauley anchors a panel of mental health experts for a 30-minute discussion of the film. Pauley was diagnosed in 2001 with bipolar disorder, which she chronicles in her book “Skywriting: Out of the Blue.”