In the second Quarterly Essay of 2005, Gail Bell investigates Australia's depression epidemic. Why, she wonders, do well over a million Australians now take anti-depressant drugs? This is a fresh, frank and independent look at the depression culture and the move to medicalise sadness. Bell examines how the prescription culture operates, scrutinising the role of big drug companies and GPs and talking to those who take - and don't take - the new anti-depressants, from anxious students to lonely retirees.
When Gail Bell was seventeen, she was shot in the back. Coming home from evening class later than usual one night, she took a short cut through the dark streets of a new estate, unaware she was being watched. When a car began following her, she felt a jolt of fear. Then the car stopped and out of the eerie silence came a cracking sound as a bullet struck her from behind. The car sped away and the shooter was never found.