“In sooth, I know not why I am so sad,” says Antonio in the Merchant of Venice. However, he was by no means the only depressed Shakespeare character: if Hamlet or Macbeth had seen a modern doctor, they would have been prescribed antidepressants. Ditto Faust, Madame Bovary, Raskolnikov. Dante begins the Divine Comedy: “Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself in dark woods, the right road lost.” He was on to something.
Far from being a 21st-century issue, clinical depression is as old as the human condition itself. What is new is the scale. But even here, it’s hard to say whether more people have depression than in the past, or more people are talking about it.