Source : Google photo
Synopsis : This blog treats the subject of mental depression that affects the humanity in a significant way and offers some solutions to overcome it.
Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. Depression is different from feeling down or sad.
I am always sympathetic to people who suffer from depression due to causes beyond their control. If you just look at the video of people who are forced to show grief by crying convulsively during the funeral of a leader in North Korea, you will understand what depression means and how harmful it is to their physical and mental health. There anyone who does not cry and shed tears enough is punished by the gun toting guards who keep a keen eye on the crowd.
This is perhaps an extreme example of depravity of their unelected leader who holds their life in the palm of his hand and can do whatever he likes with it so thousands of people are put in jails just because they failed to show grief when a dictator died.
Just ask the people of Fallujah in Iraq how happy they were when a brutal dictator was removed from power and later hanged. People there still remember the massacre of innocent men, women and children by poison gas just because they did not like a dictator and were very depressed to live a life of pity over which they had literally lost control. This kind of mental depression is brought about by the external factor like a madman ruling over them who ruled with impunity answering to no one for their sufferings.
The acute mental depression due to war, famine, pestilence and dictatorship found in many countries today leads to physical exhaustion because people see no reprieve from their conditions and no help from anywhere. Some flee their countries in rickety boats that capsize and the bodies are washed ashore somewhere while others arrive in Europe or Australia only to languish in makeshift camps for years living like animals with no future and hope for them anywhere because no country wants them.
They wait endlessly in prison camps hoping that they will be given asylum somewhere and will be able to restart their life but many years pass so they start hunger strike and riot so that someone will take notice and do something. The worst refugee crisis facing the mankind is due to incessant wars in many countries forcing these people to flee to safety in other countries only to realize that no one wants them and no one cares for them.
The UN repeatedly appeals to richer countries to do more and donate more money to take care of the refugees but is always short of funds so they do what they can with their limited resources. The race and the religion of the refugees often plays a role in determining who gets asylum and who does not but that is another issue I cannot write about now. These are all man made reasons why people suffer from depression. The opium addiction is rampant in Afghanistan where people for decades have been suffering from war and have given up hope to live a normal life so they take to drugs and often die of overdose. Men, women and even children take drugs and are destroying themselves because no one cares for them and their future is so bleak.
I have seen this desperation in the rural riverside villages in the Northern Thailand where people lie senseless in the dirt due to their opium addiction. What makes people so depressed that they take opium to forget their misery? How has their government failed them in creating jobs for them and giving them some hope to live a normal life?
Now let me write about the mental depression caused by the natural calamities like earthquake and famine that has taken numerous live in every continent. I lived in Haiti where although poor, people eked out a living by farming and by selling the things they could sell like charcoal or handicraft and managed to live a normal but poor life because poverty is quite normal there. Their depression is hidden and comes out in the open during their annual Mardi Gras festival when you see people drinking excessively and venting their frustration at everything this way.
Then all of a sudden the country was hit by an earthquake that buried people alive numbering in thousands and leveled a part of Port au Prince leaving the survivors desperate for help, food and shelter. The government appealed for the international help so some help arrived but it was too little for the magnitude of the destruction and sufferings. Years later people are still living in conditions that can only be termed as abominable so people suffer from depression. The same thing happened in Mexico City but Mexico Government helped people and rebuilt the devastated areas using their considerable oil resources. Haiti has no such resource so depends on the external aid even today.
Now imagine yourself living in exile for 60 years because you do not have a home to go to. These is what the Palestinians are going through even today and are living in many countries as refugees because the politicians cannot agree on giving them their homeland. I would also be very depressed if I were a Palestinian. Similarly the Kurds are still fighting for their homeland and many generations later still don’t have it. In Pakistan the Baluchs are fighting for their homeland and are suffering but no one outside Baluchistan cares about their struggle and their misery.
The mental depression can be a serious problem for anyone that can push a person into alcoholism or drugs if they do not get help in coming out of their depression. It is a fact that those who live in very cold and dark places drink a great deal and stay indoors because they do not see the sun and live under very gloomy weather conditions over which they have no control. In such communities, mental depression rate is much higher than in those people who live in very sunny climate and clement weather.
Now the technology has come to the aid of depressed people and provides artificial light that is like sun and cheers people up a great deal. People who are compelled to live in very close proximity of each other in densely packed and small apartments can also suffer from depression because people need free space and parks around them. If you tightly pack rats together, they will attack each other so it also applies to people who react to crowding and get easily depressed.
Human beings are social animals so they need each other. Where people do not have a social life and live in isolation become lonely which is a precursor to depression. The social media like Facebook and twitter etc. now give an opportunity to many who get to know many people this way but only electronically so it leaves them wanting physical contact and get depressed because they cannot find anyone to talk to face to face.
I do not know if the young people get more easily depressed than the older ones due to loneliness but the lack of social contacts and isolation can have a very depressing effect on anyone . I have noticed that some people open up to total strangers and start telling them their life story because their desire to talk to somebody or anybody is strong due to the lonely life they live.
In all cultures people have social gatherings during festivals that serve as an outlet for people to come out of their depression and enjoy the company of others but it does not last long so the reprieve is temporary and superficial. In other countries people will invite you to dance clubs or parties where drugs and alcohol flow freely so lonely people go there to be with others who have similar issues.
One thing that can bring about a depression is the terminal sickness of someone close to you knowing that the person has a short time to live and is beyond any medical help. Such hopelessness can trigger a depression in some people who know that they are going to lose someone they love. Hopelessness can also be related to severe mental disorder that can lead to insanity as I knew from a case during my childhood and have written about it in my previous blogs.
Most people suffering from depression eventually come out of it in time and cheer up because they get close support from people they know so it is like the dark cloud that passes over them and the sun comes out in its full brilliance but others may not be so lucky. It is a fact that the primitive people who live in close social contacts and live very simply like the Bushmen of Kalahari do not suffer from depression because they are never lonely and have strong social support for each other while people who live very isolated lives suffer the most.
For most people the depression starts at home where the parents treat their children harshly due to their religious or other beliefs. When a child’s freedom to enjoy life or go to school or play is taken away by the parents, it can lead to depression. Malala Yousafzai is fighting for girl’s education in a society that is very repressive towards them so I commend her for her bravery. In other countries you will find a high rate of depression among very young girls who are forced to marry. India is such a country where despite the minimum age of 18 when girls should marry, there is the practice of child marriage that is quite unlawful. All over the world their numbers run into millions who are deprived of their normal childhood this way due to some mistaken belief that children should be married off.
What is the cure to depression?
To find a cure one has to look for the root cause of depression and solve it so the answer is yes. Depression can be cured if people look at the root cause and find a solution. If it is the forced child marriage of girls then it can be prevented by law and enacting the law to prevent such marriages. There are some NGOs in India that are helping the girls and have a hotline they can call for help.
If it has something to do with loneliness then they can join some social groups but it only works for the young people. The old people join some religious groups that makes them feel a part of a group so feel less lonely but that may have some consequences depending on what type of religious groups they join. Some become rabid fanatics that can make them imbalanced.
I think children are the easiest to bring out of depression because they can be easily distracted by games and toys as I know it from my experience. The adults are far more complicated than children so they need more help and support but no one is a hopeless case.
In the case of alcoholics who take to the bottle to fight depression, they have alcoholic anonymous type of social groups in the United States where the alcoholics gather and help each other finding ways to beat the affliction and in other countries they also have similar social groups that help.
The main reason why in some countries people enjoy a higher quality of life and feel less depressed is because their government provides free education to people, with jobs and good affordable housing and excellent low cost health care for everybody so people feel happy. Happy people do not get depressed.
But the governments cannot solve all the problems so it is really up to the people to help themselves. One can learn a great deal from the Amish people about how to live a happy life due to their strong social bonding and their social support for each other so it is not the high standard of living that helps depressed people but the strong social bonding that some communities have to help each other that is the ultimate cure to depression. So don’t lose hope. The sun always shines when the dark clouds pass.