When Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz killed himself and 149 other people, was he depressed or just "depressed"? That distinction is key to grasping his state of mind and helping lonely, difficult, and angry people around the world, writes Anne Skomorowsky at Slate. At the hospital where she practices psychosomatic medicine, Skomorowsky sees former gang members paralyzed by gunshot wounds who behave badly with aides and nurses. "When I am asked to evaluate [them] for 'depression,' I see hopelessness, entitlement, and rage," she writes. Similarly, self-destructive and unhappy people—like the patient on dialysis who still eats chips, or the widow who watches TV all day—aren't necessarily depressed at all.
"'Depression' seems to signify social ills for which we have no solution, from violent, homicidal behavior, to health illiteracy, to our culture’s neglect of the elderly," writes Skomorowsky. "People who need social support can be expected to benefit most from programs that provide social support—not from psychiatrists." Which brings us to Lubitz: Was he truly suffering from depression, as one investigator has claimed? So far, we lack sufficient evidence. But while most suicide cases involve mental illness (usually depression) Lubitz didn't just kill himself: "Suicidal thoughts can be a hallmark of depression, but mass murder is another beast entirely," Skomorowsky writes. "Depressed people need help. 'Depressed' people do, too—but not the same kind." Click to see her full piece. (Read more depression stories.)