After major wars it is not uncommon to see an increase in suicides, an increase in the overall negative outlook towards life and increased ambivalence towards the hand that fate has dealt to us. Following the Great Recession there has been talk of a “lost generation” in America. The thinking behind this line of thought being that tough economic times will result in people becoming less optimistic about their own personal fortunes and could result in the largest untapped reserve of human potential since the end of the Vietnam War. I think there’s a certain grain of truth in this argument. 52% of people 18-25 have moved back in with their folks, over 50% of new college grads can’t find work, and the unemployment rate amongst veterans is so ridiculously high that we as a country ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Some of these problems are solvable and indeed will be solved at some point in the future, but there is a larger underlying problem here that needs to be addressed and that is the mental health problem that exists amongst members of my generation. Maybe it has to do with the economy, but I don’t think so.
I think that my generation suffers from the largest and certainly most widespread bout of depression that the world has ever seen. Why has this happened? I have no idea nor do I want to find out. I simply don’t see the point in going down that road. Oftentimes we become so interested in what causes a problem that we forget that our goal at the outset was to treat the problem and in the end we fail to do that in far too many cases. My goal is to awaken the American community to the crisis that faces our nation and that is not the cause of depression, but the epidemic of depression that afflicts far too many people in this country. Let me be clear that by attempting to assess blame for this we allocate much needed resources and supplies away from the problem of depression towards factors that may or may not be related to it. This is no way to deal with a problem. Better to treat the problem and see some results than to leave the problem untouched in the hopes of understanding some greater “cause” of the problem that will be of absolutely no use to the people currently suffering from this debilitating illness.
The rate of increase of depression among children is an astounding 23%. 15% of the population of most developed countries suffers severe depression. Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. 54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness. 41% of depressed women are too embarrassed to seek help. 80% of depressed people are not currently having any treatment. 15% of depressed people will commit suicide. Depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020. If you still don’t believe depression is a serious problem then you just haven’t been paying attention. 80% of people who see physicians are depressed. This is a problem that afflicts so many and at the same time little has been done to address the possible solutions to the problem that depression poses to us as a nation. For instance, the President’s new health care law; the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a good bill that is going to do some great things for our country, but one of the things that it does not do is help address the need for secondary care that so many Americans require.
Depression is something that I don’t like to talk about. I don’t think that anyone who has depression wants to talk about it, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice. It’s such a big problem that if you don’t address it at some point then it will address you and I have yet to meet someone who has been better off for avoiding the issue. On a personal level, this is something that I’ve suffered from for a long time – over ten years. It’s led to some of the worst experiences of my life and my failure to understand the size and scope of this affliction has cost me in ways that I still have difficulty in understanding. But that’s why we need to start addressing this issue for what it is and that is the single largest mental health disaster that will afflict my generation. Too many people still believe that depression is a sign of weakness and far too many still avoid getting treatment. These are fixable problems. We can start by providing government assistance for secondary care when it is determined that the psychological condition that one suffers has a primary role in someone’s life. That’s an easy solution that can be made by doctors and their patients. Then there are the folks who are ashamed of their affliction. It is these people that need our help more than ever. As I noted before, 15% of people that are diagnosed with depression will end their life in suicide. Those are just the numbers of people who’ve been diagnosed. Imagine the amount of people who end their lives after showing warning sign after warning sign of the psychological battles that they’ve fought. The problem is fixable, but before we can fix the problem we need to admit that a problem exists first.
Part of the problem that suffering from any psychological disorder causes is that it seriously hurts your self-esteem and lethargy often takes a larger role than action in your life. This is a problem that I call the mind-energy complex. I refer to it this way because this is something that affects a lot of smart people. For instance, every day I wake up I have an incredibly high intellectual desire for knowledge, but the force of will is constantly pitted against the lethargy that seems to feel like a better friend than ambition ever could be. Thus my want of knowledge often succumbs to my want to avoid dealing with the skeletons in my closet so to speak. The result of this is that I often don’t achieve anywhere near the kind of output that I should be able to achieve and I find myself failing at things that I know I should be able to do. Sometimes this feeling of agonism against myself leads to a frustration that can only be expressed in anger and this is the worst possible thing that could happen because oftentimes I’ll find myself turning my frustration outwards – towards people who are undeserving of this anger – and people who shouldn’t bear the brunt of an affliction that always seems to be getting worse and never seems to be getting better. I don’t know what the answer to any of this is, if I did I’d be doing a heck of a lot better in my life, but I believe in the idea that we live in a world of our own making and it is for that reason that I continue to hold out hope that life for all of us suffering from this terrible affliction can only get better.