The Daily Caller Says Anxiety, Depression Aren't Real Illnesses

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 3 2013 4:34 PM

Daily Caller: Anxiety and Depression Don't Count as Real Illnesses

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President Barack Obama delivers opening remarks to the White House Mental Health Conference as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki look on in the East Room of the White House June 3, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Obama convened a mental health conference today to encourage a national conversation about mental illness, including a public service announcement campaign targeted at young people and veterans. If you think that sounds fairly innocuous, the Daily Caller's Neil Munro is here to straighten you out:

President Barack Obama urged depressed, stressed and disturbed Americans to depend on the U.S. government’s growing corps of taxpayer-funded mental health professionals.

That phrase—"taxpayer-funded mental health professionals"—seems to hint that a simple PR campaign to treat mental illness would lead to Obamacare Creep, even though the majority of mental health treatment is paid for through private insurance.

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But the real meat of the story is Munro's assertion that anxiety and depression aren't real illnesses:

The broad definition of “mental illness” is set by the professionals who provide government-funded services to Americans.
In recent decades, the professionals have broadened the definition from severe, distinct and rare ailments, such as schizophrenia and compulsive behavior, to include a much wider set of personal troubles.
Those broader problems include stress and sadness, which are medically dubbed “anxiety” and “depression” by professionals.

If anything, those scare quotes are helping the Obama administration prove its point about stigma.

Munro notes that mental illness can be more difficult to diagnose than diseases like cancer and diabetes—that much is true. But he goes on to add that anxiety and depression can't "be reliably treated with drugs or changes in behavior"—as a rebuttal to that I'd direct you to read An Unquiet Mind or Darkness Visible or Marbles, all good reads about the long trial-and-error process of mental health treatment.

Correction, June 3, 2013: This post originally misspelled Neil Munro's last name, and quoted the Post as saying the conference "encouraged a national conversation" when it said "calls for national conversation." The quote has been removed.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.