Twenty-five hundred years ago, well before Christ, Hippocrates, the Greek father of medicine, identified melancholia as a common condition of dark mood and physical malaise. He even attributed melancholia, which today we think of as clinical depression, to a biological disturbance, namely an excess of a bodily fluid he called “black bile.”
Melancholia — severe depression that is no passing phase or simply a bad day — continues today to haunt the human condition. No race, ethnicity, age or socioeconomic group is spared its grip. We find depression in every country on Earth. It causes great psychic pain, physical distress, and functional impairment. It aggravates any coexisting chronic health condition, including asthma, heart and lung diseases, diabetes, Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders and pain syndromes.