Gary Greenberg’s “Manufacturing Depression” (2007)
“This is the heart of the magic factory, the place where medicine is infused with the miracles of science.”
In May 2007, Harper’s Magazine published “Manufacturing Depression,” an 8,700-word feature in which author Gary Greenberg enlists in a trial for a pharmaceutical treatment for depression. Of his aim, he writes:
In this nondescript office building beside the towers and pavilions of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, these dedicated people do the research that determines whether drugs work — which is to say, whether drugs will come to market as government-sanctioned cures. In the process, they turn complaint into symptom, symptom into illness, and illness into diagnosis, the secret knowledge of what really ails us, what we must do to cure it, and who we will be when we get better. This is the heart of the magic factory, the place where medicine is infused with the miracles of science, and I’ve come to see how it’s done.
In the narrative that follows, Greenberg probes deeply into the way the American medical system defines, diagnoses, and treats depression and other forms of mental illness. His essay led to a book, also called Manufacturing Depression, in 2010.
Greenberg also has a review of Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree in the June 2013 issue of Harper’s, and his The Book of Woe, about the controversial Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is newly out from Blue Rider Press.