We don’t really know how many people suffer with depression. Best-guess statistics suggest that roughly half of those with depression don’t come forward for treatment - but we don’t actually know. If we factor in the CDC estimate that 1 in 10 adults actually do report depression, the outlook seems fairly bleak.
These days we tend to refer to depression as a disease. It’s perfectly reasonable as there is good empirical evidence for an organic base. However, much of depression is situational and with rates of depression on the increase it makes sense to think more about these situations and what they might represent.
I started thinking more about this after I’d written a Sharepost called Single Living & Depression. The somewhat alarming (and possibly flawed) statistic that people living alone are at an 80 per cent increased risk of depression, points very much to situational circumstances. Of course the way we live our lives could very well have an effect on our biological processes so I don’t suggest it’s one thing or the other.
In writing about depression, the standard delivery is to outline signs and symptoms and then the other factors considered to be risks. The way we live our lives tends to be tucked into the ‘also’ list, but it seems inevitable that our lives, influenced as they are by the pace, goals and aspirations of our culture, will be strongly affected. When people talk about normality and dysfunctionality, it’s within a context of achievement, wealth acquisition and other such markers of success. Is this really what a successful life is about? If we don’t measure up, or we fail trying, is it a sign that we have failed as people?
The idea that everyone can have everything is patently absurd, but it’s a message that’s actually quite difficult to get away from. The reality of course is that most people live steady, predictable, rather unexciting lives. Sometimes these lives are lived in loveless or even abusive relationships. In such contexts and against a backdrop of the things we’re told we have a right to expect, it seems to me that depression makes perfect sense. In such circumstances what should we treat? Treating the depression makes little sense if the causes can’t be tackled. So, can we tackle the causes?
It doesn’t take a therapist to make some people realise the root of their depression is due to their circumstances. There isn’t a day that passes that people aren’t giving up work, dissolving relationships or making life-changing decisions they hope will lift them out of misery. Some will succeed, some will make progress and some will have to try again another day. Coping with trials and tribulations is something we must learn along the way. Depression, seen in these circumstances, is no more than an emotional call to action. Depression may feel like the enemy, and it may be convenient to treat it as such, but dealing with the underlying issues is more likely to be the key to a healthy comeback.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.