UMB Professor Explores Depression

Bonnie Godas and Amy Julian

With over 18 million people in the U.S. suffering from some sort of diagnosed depression (and many more suffering silently), it is important to recognize that depression (and the related, milder Dysthymic disorder) plague the nation as one of the leading mental illnesses in the country.

Edward Tronick, Professor of Psychology at UMass Boston, along with PBS decided that Americans needed to be made aware of the issue of depression and produced a documentary entitled “Depression: Out of the Shadows,” set to air on Wednesday, May 21, at 9:00 p.m. on PBS. The documentary combines commentary from experts in the mental health field with suggestions on how to deal with the depression of yourself or a loved one.

Tronick decided to contribute to this documentary because he says that public awareness and myths about depression often are skewed. “What’s critical about doing a program like this is to show that depression is a treatable disease,” he explains. “There are a lot of different therapies, from behavioral to cognitive to drug therapies, and we know that these therapies, especially when combined with one another form are quite effective.” Tronick agrees that public opinion about getting help and the stigma surrounding the issue can often deter someone from getting the help they may need. “A lot of people may try to hide it or ‘get over it,'” he says. “But if we can have a dialogue and talk about depression, it can decrease the severe effects depression can have on the family and the individual.”

Students, Tronick explains, are particularly susceptible to experiences of depression. “There’s a lot of stress that goes along with being a student,” he attests. “Many are working, some have children, and all of that stress can build up and lead to a depression and many think they can handle on their own.” Tronick stresses the importance of receiving some form of treatment, and reiterates that depression can be treated. “It’s a treatable disease; it doesn’t have to last forever.”

The documentary will show the many aspects of depression, including the role of biological and neurological factors, as well as external forces that may play a crucial role in the development of depression. Professor Tronick also explains that viewers will also be able to see real-life depression sufferers and how real people have experienced depression.

In addition to his participation in the PBS documentary, Edward Tronick also does much work at Children’s Hospital and will be starting a program in January of 2009, which will “train people in parent-infant mental health issues and how to work with issues like infant depression and post-partum depression and the effects each can have on the family,” he describes.

Be sure to catch “Depression: Out of the Shadows” when it airs on PBS on May 21 at 9:00 p.m. You can also order the DVD directly from the PBS website ( It’s time for the public to become educated and compassionate towards the issue of depression, and Tronick’s documentary is the first step in understanding and appreciating the complex and pervasive disease that is depression.