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The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath I am not a mental health professional, and I claim no expertise in that field. I know this book speaks to many people about gender issues, and I'm sorry to give that short shrift, but I read this book from the standpoint of somebody who's had a person close to me commit suicide. It has been a while since I thought about this book, but I saw a friend's Goodreads review recently, and just coincidentally the Human Resources dept where I work has lately been active addressing suicide prevention. I can't help wondering what this book says about the experience of depression. ...That statement may be simplistic; depression may not be a single entity, but a constellation of different conditions with similar symptoms. I've read some distinctions between "psychological" and "biochemical" depression. The biochemical category makes sense, but the more I read about "psychological" depression, the harder it is to believe anybody really knows what is meant by that term. Maybe it just represents forms of biochemical depression that haven't been elucidated yet. Maybe what seems like a "psychological" component is just incidental. Legitimate grieving or life stressors may lower the threshold for biological depressions to declare themselves, but may not actually cause depression. From my lay perspective, this seems to make intuitive sense, because we read about people like Anne Frank or Loung Ung, who faced horrible and prolonged psychological assaults, but did not seem to be clinically depressed. I presume it's because they had no biochemical disposition towards depression. If Anne Frank isn't a case against the existance of psychological depression, I don't know who is.One form of biologic depression involves insufficient Serotonin. That's a neurotransmitter, a chemical responsible for signal transmission in the brain. Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors like Prozac or Zoloft treat depression by increasing the concentration of Serotonin at brain nerve endings. Plath's metaphor for her depression as a bell jar makes perfect sense in this context. She compares her life experience to the rarified atmosphere under the sealed glass dome of a vacuum pump. It seems like she was trying to tell us that her depression wasn't situational at all, it was a perception of some kind of insufficiency. I have to believe this distinction was important to her. After all, the title of the book is "The Bell Jar", not some reference to any of the situational stressors in her life. As I look at the suicide prevention materials from work, it bothers me that there is no mention of this anywhere. I'm sure what is listed here has some merit: risk factors, warning signs, recommendations, etc. But there's nothing here about comparisons to suffocation, or a vague sense of smothering or insufficiency. I wonder whether anybody has ever investigated that as a warning sign or risk factor for suicide.