is a Philadelphia writer
Stefanie Glick was binge-watching James Bond films when she had a realization: The British super spy was "depressed as hell," working constantly and taking unnecessary risks, shunning deep long-term relationships, and smoking and drinking to excess.
Then the freelance writer who has struggled with her own depressive episodes had another thought: She could use Bond and his unseen malady to talk and write about a difficult subject. She could address the stigma associated with depression while showing that those who struggle with their moods and still lead successful lives are as heroic as Bond.
"We think of people who live with depression as being so weak and incapable, but it's the exact opposite," said Glick, ticking off a few historic figures with well-known dark periods, including President Abraham Lincoln and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
"To say I identify with Lincoln may be a bit grandiose," she said, "but there is something in his story that I and so many other people who are living meaningful, productive lives while struggling with depression on a day-to-day basis can relate to."
In July, Glick cowrote the article "Fighting a Global Health Crisis: What Can James Bond Teach Us About Depression?" for the Huffington Post and has secured space on the site for a recurring column about mental-health issues. She founded a nonprofit that aims to empower people living with depression; it's called License to Live, a play on the name of the title of the 16th Bond film.
In September, License to Live will begin hosting a weekly depression support group at the Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square. The meetings, open to all who need them, will be led by Glick and Mike Remshard, a psychologist in private practice and counselor at the Community College of Philadelphia. (For more information, go to www.licensetolive.net.)
"Being aware that you're depressed does not mean something's wrong with you," Remshard said. "It means that something needs to change."
Remshard is collaborating with Glick and University of Arizona psychologist Jeff Greenberg on a book, A License to Live: James Bond's Trade Secrets for Living Well With Depression. (The book is a work in progress. While the authors have an agent, they do not have a publisher.)
It will include input from other well-known mental-health experts such as psychologist Terrance Real, who when asked how he'd greet Bond if he came for treatment, replied, "I would say to him, let's talk about the booze and women, and what you would feel if you stopped doing that."
In a similar vein, Andrew Solomon, a National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist, told Glick he supported any efforts that widened awareness of depression and its treatments, including Bond. "I think at the moment, there's a lot of highbrow conversation [about depression] and there are a lot of people who are not participating in that," he said. "Depression is a pervasive problem and it affects everyone, and the more people we can have informed about it, the better the world will be."
Glick said many people laugh when she mentions the title of her work-in-progress, but that's the response she's looking for.
"I want to write the most accessible book about depression that I can," she said. "You bring James Bond in the picture and it instantly gets people loosened up. . . . He's an accessible symbol for all of us high-functioning people. It's really about demystifying a very difficult subject."
Remshard and Glick connected about a year ago. When they began talking about organizing a support group, Remshard said, he noticed something: "We actually laughed a lot." Being able to laugh can help depressed individuals get a little distance from their pain, he said.
"Sometimes we can fall into a depression narrative and take ourselves too seriously," he said. "It can lead to a cycle where we don't see any light."
Click said she has lived with depression since her teenage years and she knows she uses humor as a coping tool to live well.
"When my humor goes out the window, I go, 'Uh-oh.' It's a sign I need a little more intensive care," she said. "Living well with depression doesn't mean you don't struggle. It means you're surviving and committed to living the best life that you can."
As to how the facilitators would react if Bond stepped off the silver screen and walked into their first meeting Sept. 13, Remshard said he would make it clear that 007 had to leave his vices outside.
"We don't want him drinking in the group. We don't want him smoking in the group," Remshard said seriously.
Glick's eyes seemed to glaze over as she imagined the British secret agent, perhaps dressed in a tuxedo, joining the meeting.
"I'd have to try not to flirt with him," she said, later adding, "He'd raise the bar on style."