Depression 101 is a simple yet surprisingly comprehensive self-help book designed to provide an action-oriented approach towards combating depression. Authors John Preston and Melissa Kirk emphasize that treatment for depression is essential, noting that without appropriate treatment, a majority of those with depression are at risk to experience recurrent and/or chronic depression. Although the authors maintain that the self-help strategies which they present are frequently successful, they emphasize that for those with severe depression, professional help is always essential, and thus they urge their readers to consider the various treatment options which they outline in the opening chapters. At the start of the book, the authors also provide well-written yet succinct information on exactly "What is Depression?", including a discussion of the differences between clinical depression, sadness, and grief.
As mentioned above, Preston and Kirk encourage readers to be actively involved in their own treatment. Thus each chapter which follows is filled with detailed, proven behavioral changes which those struggling with depression can implement in an attempt to produce a resulting improvement in mood. Although the authors acknowledge that when one is depressed, one may have little motivation to attempt positive action, they make this process as easy as possible by providing specific advice as well offering useful exercises. The areas of change which the authors address vary from making healthy lifestyle choices (e.g., sleep, nutrition, and exercise), incorporating cognitive strategies, enhancing self-esteem, managing intense emotions, improving social skills, to preventing relapse. Particularly useful is the information on recognizing negative though patterns, the suggestions for clarifying one's own value system, the basic overview on developing a mindfulness practice, and the very detailed information on becoming more aware of body language and engaging in more adaptive social communication, both of which would be especially helpful to those experiencing some social anxiety in addition to depression.
In their discussion of relapse, Preston and Kirk emphasize two basics of self-care (sleep and exercise) as well as stress the importance of having a support person involved. They also suggest goal-setting as a means of maintaining balance and continuing progress. The authors conclude their book with two Appendices, one which lists Medical Disorders That Can Cause Depression and one which lists Drugs That Can Cause Depression. (Note: the authors strongly recommend that anyone with depression first see a medical professional for a complete physical to rule out possible medical causes for their depression.) Overall, this short book (with References, it's just under 140 pages) offers just what it promises--i.e., a practical self-help guide to the treatment of depression. As a psychologist working in a college counseling center, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to my student clients.
© 2010 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.