Why Are We So Depressed?
It’s Monday and I arrive at work as normal. After the usual Monday morning pleasantries, I am informed by one of my colleagues that depression has claimed a life of someone we mutually know. Young life taken without warning, leaving behind loved ones who can only guess ‘why?’.
As I was sitting at my desk trying to come to terms with what I had just heard, it was as if I had awoken from the trance of my everyday life, because I suddenly recalled so many I know who are affected by depression: colleagues, friends and family. How has depression become such a common malady?
Trevor Silvester, founder of Cognitive Hypnotherapy and author of related books, such as ‘Cognitive Hypnotherapy “What’s that about it and how can I use it” notes that depression is often a reaction to a toxic society and is increasing at a staggering rate in the Western word.
“Several writers, Oliver James in “Affluenza” and Alain de Botton in “Status Anxiety” have pointed toward consumerism as the toxin poisoning us and I think they are right. Consumerism drives people to be anxious about what they have in relation to everyone else. We work too long to afford things we don’t have time to enjoy, and are driven by a created anxiety about whether we are a ‘success’. This has led to underlying unhappiness within our society – and unhappiness with ourselves. Depression is often a result of a life incident which diminishes us in the eyes of others (in our perception) such as divorce and redundancy. “If all we can see ahead of us is more of the same, we’d be insane to keep working towards it, so we don’t, we hide under the duvet and hope it passes”, Silvester says.
We don’t have to go far to face statistics which are difficult to ignore. Mixed anxiety and depression are the most common mental disorders in Britain and between 4% & 10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.
As I realised that fateful Monday, there are many who hide it well. So, what signs should we be aware of when someone doesn’t voice their feelings or refuses to accept they are depressed?
“Clinical depression is relatively easy to spot because people lose all motivation to act. They shut down” says Trevor. “What we now commonly call depression can be harder to spot, but we should look for changes in energy levels. Also at how pessimistic they are because nothing much has a point when you’re down. If people can be led to seeing that this is not an issue of identity – as in “I am depressive”, but merely a thing they’re going through – “I’m doing depression” it suggests it exists in a moment of time. That can feel more ‘fixable’. Silvester says,
“We shouldn’t obsess about the label but be aware of the behaviours that accompany it. Then, see if we can support them in changing those behaviours and go from there at their speed.”
One of the key changes that’s been proven to work is to reduce rumination. When people realise they have a choice about what they spend their mind thinking about, and develop the skill to focus on more positive thoughts, their state improves quite dramatically.
This could be invaluable advice to many affected by depression now, but surely prevention is better than cure?
“Sleep deprivation is a little known trigger for depression, so ensuring you have enough is important” says Silvester “Exercise is also critical and can be a great preventative step”
“Not only that, it’s important to develop mentally, reading good self-help books and learning about depression so we can take control of our choices. It’s when we feel we’re at the mercy of events that we slide into depression more easily.”
Depression features in the media almost daily and it is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem. Major depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and It’s also a major contributor to suicide and ischaemic heart disease. Despite all the attention depression receives, it seems that this issue is sadly still one of those topics people keep to themselves because talking about it may feel like taboo.
Ever since that Monday, I can only hope that you don’t suffer in silence.
Written by Laura Lohk for Grace & Green
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