Yes, society is taking entirely the wrong approach to depression. But this is not really because anyone is deliberately messing up. Its because depression is generally viewed as an illness instead of a condition that may be a normal response to events that have happened.
As it is generally seen as an illness, there is a tendency to want to “treat” the condition by using medication. But the reason someone has become depressed needs to be assessed properly before it can be determined whether medication will actually help. Medication for depression seems very over prescribed.
Some doctors are quick to prescribe anti-depressants to someone with no real investigation into why the person is depressed in the first place. It appears quite common for doctors to keep people on medication for quite a long time (sometimes many years), without considering why the symptoms are there in the first place and whether or not there is an alternative response. The truth is that there are many reasons people become depressed, and medication will not work for everybody.
Depression is a word that describes a whole set of symptoms, such as continued loss of interest in life, lethargy, difficulty sleeping and hopelessness. Having depression can have a huge impact on someones life. It may even make them consider taking their own life. It is certainly a very serious condition. The reasons why people get these symptoms are as complex and unique as human beings are.
Depression can be seen as a normal response to unhappy events. It would be unusual for someone to walk around in a permanently positive mood if they were experiencing bereavement, redundancy, huge debts, homelessness and physical pain, wouldn’t it?
Some people believe depression is caused by a chemical imbalance of the brain. Others say that any chemical imbalance of the brain may be a response to the symptoms of depression. Others still, say that this is all rubbish and that chemicals have nothing to do with it. Either which way, the brain is an organ we do not fully understand the workings of yet. And there is no doubt that people may face very difficult situations in life which can result in them getting the symptoms of depression. Giving somebody medication which messes about with their brain is not a decision that should be taken lightly by doctors.
A better way to deal with it would be to carry out a full psychological assessment of the person before deciding what action to take. Then it can be decided whether the person would benefit from a therapy like Counselling, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Psychotherapy. Whether they have a specific current social problem such as unemployment, homelessness or inadequate housing, debt, abuse, or an addiction. In which case they may benefit from being referred to an agency which can help them resolve that problem. Or there may be a physical medical problem which is causing the depression.
And yes, if after a person has had a full assessment and medication is necessary, then by all means prescribe it. But make sure that the medication is regularly reviewed and that it is useful to the person and that they are getting enough support. Don’t just use medication under the pretence that the problem will go away once the magical pills are swallowed.
Treating depression as though it were an illness supposes that the person with the symptoms has some kind of “disease”. Yet the symptoms of depression may well be a normal human reaction to the many stresses people are commonly experiencing in modern life. And in some cases, we may just be throwing tablets at people instead of trying to understand their particular situation and addressing their problems in a more practical and useful way.