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What is Depressive Illness? – 20/03/14

In 2013, we commissioned the book ‘Depressive Illness – Curse of the Strong’ by Dr Tim Cantopher', with a foreword from Marcus Trescothick, and circulated it to all of our members by post. In light of recent events surrounding Jon Trott, we hope that this, along with the book, may help to create greater understanding around what is a complex issue. The below extract gives an insight into depression, who it affects, and what it feels like to suffer from it. 

Extract from ‘Depressive Illness – Curse of the Strong’ by Dr Tim Cantopher 

What is depressive illness? (Chapter 1, page 6) 

“Depressive illness, or at least the commonest form, which is that caused by stress, nearly always happens to one type of person. 

So much so, in fact, that it allows me my little party piece in interviews with patients, which is to tell them about their personality before they tell me. 

Normally, in a psychiatric assessment, one is expected to make enquiries about aspects of the patients personality. I never bother, because it is nearly always the same. He or she will have the following personality characteristics; 

  • (Moral) Strength
  • Reliability
  • Diligence
  • Strong conscience
  • Strong sense of responsibility
  • A tendency to focus on the needs of others before one’s own
  • Sensitivity
  • Vulnerability to criticism
  • Self-esteem dependent on the evaluation of others. 

This person is the sort to whom you would turn if you had a problem to sort out upon which your house depended. He/she is a safe pair of hands and you can trust him/her with your life. Indeed, this person is usually admired, though often somewhat taken for granted by those around him/her. People are usually very surprised when he/she gets ill; indeed he/she is the last person you would expect to have a breakdown. 

But it isn’t so surprising when you consider that depressive illness is a physical condition. Think about it; give a set of stresses to someone who is weak, cynical or lazy and he will quickly give up, so he will never get stressed enough to become ill. 

A strong person, on the other hand, will react to these pressures by trying to overcome them. 

After all, he/she has overcome every challenge he/she has faced in the past through diligence and effort. So he/she keeps going, absorbing more and more, until inevitably, symptoms emerge. 

At this point, most people would say, ‘‘Hang on, this is ridiculous, I’m doing too much, I’m getting symptoms! You’re going to have to help; it’s about time you pulled your weight; and as for you, you’re going to have to sort yourself out.” 

So they pull back from the brink before it’s too late. 

But the sensitive person, without a very solid sense of self-esteem, can’t stop struggling, because he/she fears other people being disappointed in him/her. 

Even more than this, he/she fears being disappointed in himself/herself. So he/she keeps going, on and on and on, until suddenly: BANG! The fuse blows. 

That is what this is: a blown fuse. Again, this isn’t a metaphor. The limbic system is a type of fuse mechanism and when it blows, it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you can’t achieve anything. Once the fuse has blown, you can put 1,000 amps through it, but it won’t do any good. 

So turn the electricity off.” 

Reaction to the work of Dr Tim Cantopher

“If the response to his Radio 2 broadcast is anything to go by, Tim Cantopher is saying something uniquely powerful to people with depression. People affected by depression tell me this is the most powerful and helpful book ever written about this topic. I keep meeting people who say this book has changed their lives.” 

Jeremy Vine, BBC Radio 2 

We believe that Dr Tim Canopher’s book can offer insight and advice for those within the cricketing profession, who suffer with depression. If you didn’t receive the book and would like a copy, please contact me at jratcliffe@thepca.co.uk. 

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