1. Depression Exists - Everywhere - But Afflicts Some People More Than Others
Major depression is not something that is 'just all in the mind' and it doesn't afflict only the 'weak' people. Even in this day and age there is a wearsome stigma associated with depression and for that matter any disease of the mind.
There is evidence to suggest that depression affects certain personality types more than others. The creatives, the perfectionists, the anxious, the introverted, all have more than their fair share of depression. This does not mean that if you cannot even doodle a cat and are a warm bubbly go getter kind of person, depression can't come knocking on your door. It is one affliction that spares none. The lowly and the high, the wise and the fool, the young and the old; it can affect anyone.
Todd Essig, a psychologist in NYC, spoke to Forbes magazine about depression among highly successful people, “Uber-success can be depressogenic. Many C-suite executives are prone to depression, despite their success, maybe even because of it.”
Plenty of research shows that depression is more common in the developed world than in the less industrialized nations. China is a case in point. As China grows in industrialization and prosperity its depression rates have surged.
The link between prosperity and depression is perhaps due to a changing mindset in relation to self worth. Every upwardly mobile society is largely engaged in comparing themselves with the Joneses who live up their street. This can easily lead to disillusionment and unhappiness.
Am I good enough? This seemingly innocuous question is the deadliest question ever asked in the history of mankind. It now plagues entire populations and is driving countless souls to take their own lives.
So beware. If you find yourself asking this to yourself frequently then seek help. Immediately. Or at least talk this out with a sympathetic pair of ears.
Do not take this warning lightly!
2. You can't 'Just Snap Out of It'
Depression is not the same as having a lousy day or short lived mood fluctuations in response to the normal challenges of everyday life. Over 800,000 people die of suicide each year.
Depression runs far deeper and so you can't ask depressed people to 'just snap out of it'. In fact that is the worst advice that you can give. Neither can you ask that of yourself. Well you can, but it does not work. If it were as easy as snapping out of a mood then 350 million people would not be suffering from depression worldwide (1).
3. The Role of 2 L's - Lifestyle and Loneliness
Our lifestyles play a key role in the development of depression. There can be no successful management plan for depression without the application of lifestyle medicine.
Modern societies increasingly eat a poor diet, move far less than our ancestors, get less sunlight, sleep less and often erratically, and are far more socially-isolated than ever before. Each of these changes in lifestyle contributes to poorer physical and mental health, particularly depression (2).
Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for." Basically a chronic affliction of loneliness.
Yes, we as a society are becoming increasingly lonely. People have fewer good friends and fewer real friends. Facebook friends and followers don't count as real if they are just numbers on your friend list. But deep and personal interaction with real friends even on a virtual platform helps more than having none at all.
Most of us do not even know who our neighbours are. Our ageing parents are increasingly living alone or in care and not with actual family. The younger generations do not benefit from their wisdom and companionship and the older generations feel purposeless and lonely. In Britain 50% of elderly will consider the television as their main form of company (3).
Loneliness can manifests in a variety of ways. Foremost amongst them is stress, depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide.
Is there a way out? Can we keep the 350 million from growing any larger?
Yes. We can. But we need to be ready to make certain radical changes in our lives, lifestyle and society.
Comment with your suggestions.
2. Hidaka, B. H. (2012). Depression as a disease of modernity: explanations for increasing prevalence. Journal of Affective Disorders, 140(3), 205–214. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2011.12.036
3. Health of the UK Population 2040 - Mini Essays. The Lancet (2015)