Over 19 million clinical cases of depression and chronic depression have been diagnosed in the United States, with only 1/3 of the cases seeking treatment. It has been documented to affect twice as many women as men and is considered to be on a two-to-one ratio, not picking or choosing races, countries, ethic backgrounds, or an economic status. Second only to severe forms of arthritis, is our own society approaching depression correctly?
Over the past 25 years, the brain has become better understood due to the newly discovered capabilities of neurology. Part of this recent development is the ability to re-grow nerve cells for brain repair. Depression has become just one of the many newly developing areas in the field of neuroscience research over the past four or five years. Called “adult neurogenesis,” it excitedly changed the theory that had stated from birth, our neurons deteriorate and die. Instead, laboratory studies have begun to show that adults can generate new neurons in the hippocampus late in life, opposite to previous theories regarding the brain. All this is well and good, but can it remove depression from our society? Would it not be treating the condition itself, rather than the cause?
The question that needs to be asked is “What is causing our society to become so depressed?” This involves not only women, but children and men. Even our own pets are being treated for depression in these current high-tech times. When we research medical studies and fields, there seems to be not one answer, but several possibilities. I may be old-fashioned but possibilities alone do not cut it for me, as it is only a good guess at besta proofless fact. “It could be this way, but it could also be that way” carries no weight as far as most are concerned, so let us look at how the approaches to depression have developed to what they are today.
Mental illness and depression were familiar terms before the Old Testament was ever developed, with their first written word in the Bible referring to King Saul’s depression and successful suicide attempt. But during ancient times, depression was not considered an abnormal condition but instead as being possessions by supernatural forces. Rather graphic, being mentally ill was cured through the process of trepanning, where a hole is drilled into the skull in order to release the evil spirits. Even today, mental illness or depression is considered as being caused by something negative, which in turn is caused by some form of evil forcesbad parenting, sexual abuse, stress, physical abuse, emotional traumas, and so on.
Scientific approaches toward depression began in the classical Greek era, in order to explain its physical and psychological phenomenon. The humoral theory was developed by Empedocles in 490-430 BC, based on the four basic elements: fire; earth; water; and airstating that disease is caused by an imbalance in the body. In this process, the ill person was given a specific drug to balance a system which was out of balance, with the drug itself having an opposite quality to that which was considered to the one out-of-balance. Not unlike those given today to provide something that is missing in the body or mind, the ideas are several thousand years old but the principal is the same.
From this time on until the end of the fifteenth century, psychological issues finally developed until the devil was seen as the cause of all ills, and mental disorders were seen as sins. Due to this viewpoint, we, as a society, began to use mental hospitals as dumping grounds for anyone who was considered undesirable as a part of society. Chained in dirty, rat infested cells, the mentally ill continued being treated as “mad” by the 18th and early 19th centuries, when humanitarian reforms began. What began to be different was the fact the insane were simply extensions of the normal individuals, and were treated as such, considered to be simply less able to control their processes which made them more vulnerable than most. Theory after theory began during this time to diagnosis what mental illness was all about.
Personally, we have jumped into and become overly involved with treating mental illness and depression as a scientific endeavour, but non-scientifically it is being treated by society as it was in our ancient days. It is still bad, and it is still non-acceptable. We can go to the moon, and are planning on going to Mars, but we cannot cure depression in the thousands of years we have been trying.
Even today, we are still trying to treat depression as something bad, instead of using it as the soul’s ability to teach us about life. Many generations of writing and literature have demonstrated to us that many varieties of depression and religious perspectives are here for a purposea lesson in the nature of our soul. The best writers have written deep in the depths of depression, and the best art has been done in the highs of manic depression. Depression refers to the fact we do not know who we are, which makes us very sad. Some write to find out, while others draw. Others take pills because they either do not want to know, or do not know how to find out. From this, we must realize that the only person who can help us is ourself-while recognizing that if we are depressed, we are not where we should be in life or doing what we want to do.