Guest Post: Why John Waters' Controversial Comments on Depression Hurt Me Deeply

Last weekend John Waters gave an interview to the Sunday Independent where he expressed the belief that "there is no such thing" as depression, referring to it as "an invention". Many people were horrified by the statement, feeling that it fuelled the stigma suffered by those who struggle with mental health issues. Today, our own regular commenter Beth explains why these words have caused hurt and outrage to so many.

Earlier this week I was deeply insulted by a public figure in our national press. Yep, John Waters is at it again.

You see, I accept that he is a controversial character and in the main, his views are completely contrary to mine and to my outlook on life. I believe that we may marry whomever we want to, irrespective of gender, and that it will actually add to Irish society. I believe that gay people should have every right to adopt should they wish to. And I always pay my parking tickets.

But these most recent comments upset me, possibly because he called time on people who 'pretend' to have depression. It seemed to me that this time, ill people were the target.

In an interview in the Sunday Independent, he said:

"I don't believe in depression. There's no such thing. It's an invention. It's's a cop out."

John Waters (Image courtesy of Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland) John Waters (Image courtesy of Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

Yes John, I bullshit. I did it in 2005 when my Dad died, and again 6 months later when my brother died. I did it in 1991 when I had months of anxiety attacks that turned me into a near hermit, attacks that returned in 1996 and sank me into, as you might call it, deep 'invention', while I battled with my own personal identity issues. I also bull shitted in 1993 when I was perilously close to an eating disorder due to my issues of anxiety.

And for those who struggle with clinically diagnosed depression, would you suggest that this agonising mental state is nothing more than a cop out? What about those countless millions of new mothers who suffer with postnatal depression? Or all those people who are under the care of places such as St. John of Gods or Pieta House, have they 'invented' the pain they feel?

You see John, it's not just me who feels like this and this is why you have insulted me and others. You have made a mockery of what is probably society's worst non-physical illness and worse yet, you have turned yourself into the victim here at the expense of our suffering. You have as good as called me a liar and a fraud and a bull shitter, and this hurts me deeply.

I may not have a national column to say this but yes, it hurts me deeply.

See Change was one of the Irish mental health organisation to issue a response to the comments See Change was one of the Irish mental health organisations to issue a response to the comments

Though in fairness to you, it probably hurt me less than how you must have felt last week when the woman "waddled" over and interrupted your coffee or when that man on a bike roared at you, or when Miss Panti incorrectly called you a homophobe on TV, or how badly it hurt when you only got €40,000 from RTE.


I may not lose sleep over it and I may not lose a stone in weight but sure, what's the worst that could happen to me? Another few years of invention, bullshit and cop out?

Have you been affected by John Waters' words? Do you think his comments are hurtful and at odds with our ongoing battle to break the stigma and the silence associated with mental health issues? Or are his words representative of a certain small segment of our society, maybe the very ones that we need to reach? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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