What’s depression got to do with it

The feeling of being stuck in the middle of nowhere. The feeling of the absence of all guidance and purpose.

The idea of not being able to take action or even able to come up with a strategy.

Having failed, being useless, worthless.

These are widespread thoughts and symptoms of depression.

In one way, these are rooted in personal crises.

But every once in a while, you hear that depression seems to have become “epidemic”.

Talking about such an epidemic, there are several aspects, besides personal crises, that increase the likelihood of the phenomenon of the rise of depression cases (Major Depression).

What is described, even when talking about an “epidemic”, as an individual mental health issue, seems to have (at least in many cases, mental illness grade depression excluded) it’s rooted not solely within ourselves, but in the environment, we share.

To line out, what these epidemic cases mean, and how to understand and collectively overcome them, it takes more than just medical facts. It needs to be put into a broader social, political and economic context.

Jumping right in, there is evidence, that economic crises have a great impact on the increased number of mental health issues. A study by Mucci, Nicola, Gabriele Giorgi, Mattia Roncaioli, Javier Fiz Perez, and Giulio Arcangeli. “The Correlation between Stress and Economic Crisis: A Systematic Review.” has summed it up quite clearly:

“All studies showed that the economic crisis was an important stressor that had a negative impact on workers’ mental health. Most of the studies documented that a rise in unemployment, increased workload, staff reduction, and wages reduction were linked to an increased rate of mood disorders, anxiety, depression, dysthymia, and suicide.”

So much for the influence of economics for now. The relation will be lined out later on.

Reasons why it could increase rates of cases of depression

Insufficient communication

Publicly, depression is still a more medical issue, rather than a phenomenon framed into the social context.

Moreover, in social media the dominance of information about the stereotypical description of people and social groups limits the space for authentic talks about rather critical issues, causing a lack of real stories. This can lead to complete social isolation (even online, e.g. Facebook, also people started to leave, currently no alternative), which even increases the likelihood of developing or worsening depressive tendencies. In short: on a community or even network level, there exists only the opposite of problem-solving.

But not only in social environments, potential causes can be spotted:

Political and economic dysfunctional structures seem to be the root causes, their harmful effects are only socially implemented and reinforced (by social media and social networks).

The broader context

The root causes for dysfunctional (socio-) economic policies

Most of the western world share the same values, on which social structures, political systems, and economic policies based on.

What hides behind the curtain of “liberal values”, is, taking a closer look on what these values derived from, all but liberal.

Starting with the basic concepts of social structures, we come across mainly two of which are the main sources of western world values.

For once there is capitalism as shared market form.

Aside from the known characterization, to understand the relation between it and depression, the following aspects are of interest:

— not being productive not allowed

— sanctioning, rather than helping unemployed individuals (since the “welfare reforms”)

Based on Bourdieu and his theories about the factors, that influence the distribution of essential economic resources or capital, such sanctions increase economic disadvantages by decreasing the level of the amount of unemployment benefits for any possible reason (often even illegally, by sanctioning refusal of job offerings or for missing an appointment).

Since capital decides, having the wrong or not enough drives you out of the market.

This artificially and randomly determinism leads to problems explained above.

Patriarchy, which is, despite the revived feminist movements still regulating most of our social lives. But not only this area is still shaped by its beliefs like condemning weakness, devaluing and marginalizing various groups and considering them inferior, which still causes lack of skilled workers in the workforce. Therefore, having a damaging impact on economic capacity and stability in times of crises.

Relation to latest events

Populism as a form compensation

Finding the guilty, often a minority group (avoiding the feeling of powerlessness) is a common form of compensation. Similar happened in the 19th century:

Members of the Farmers’ Alliances, the KOL, the Labor parties, and other smaller groups realized that their concerns were never going to be addressed unless changes were made in the political landscape. In 1892, thirteen hundred delegates from these organizations met in Omaha, Nebraska, and formed an independent political party. Their formal name was the People’s Party, but they became known as Populists. The reforms supported by the Populists were not new; their underlying issues had been the basis of major complaints among protest groups for years. The Populists supported government ownership of the railroads and telegraphs and believed government land grants should be given to actual settlers, not to railroads. They called on the government to issue more silver and paper currency in the hope that the increase of money in circulation would raise prices and help farmers pay off their debts. Populists campaigned for the graduated income tax (the more money people made, the more taxes they paid). The graduated tax would redistribute wealth by taxing the rich more heavily than the poor. Populists wanted postal savings banks, which would give the poor a safe place to deposit their money because the banks would be government-owned. This new party supported the direct election of U.S. senators (rather than having them appointed by state legislatures). Populists wanted a reduction in tariffs and called for an eight-hour workday.

Unlike the Republicans and the Democrats, the Populists were not influenced by big business or corporate America. They represented the working class and tried to give these voters a voice. To convince voters, they needed to establish national unity, so they sent representatives to all regions of the United States. These activists gave public speeches to enthusiastic crowds in which they denounced the major political parties as money-grubbing politicians. Although most would-be Populists agreed on the major issues, one strong factor kept them from unifying: racism.” (Thomson Gale. 2007.)

Remembering the findings of the study, this correlation constitutes a historic precedent.

With social media, platforms like Facebook make it uncomplicated for hate groups to spread hate and intimidation. Furthermore, the ease with which these groups survive and even grow in numbers. Their influence has reached a stage, on which they have serious impact. Not only within social networks, and because Facebook is a business, rather than social network, Facebook even started to monetize their existence. Advertisers can now choose from hate speech terms, to reach their audience (which, by the way, helped to raise populism).

Finally, suicide rates increase, so does the amount of prescription medication and illegal drug consumption.

The overall connection between dysfunctional policies and depression

Why there is a relation: The Protestant Ethic; Spirit of Capitalism

Capitalism replaced religious beliefs, but did not exterminate the hazardous systematic of religious illusion.

It is less the belief, than the illusion on which it is based on. In case of capitalism as a form of religion, recurring crises bit by bit destroy the illusion, not only posing a threat to mental health in terms of stress throughout economic downfalls, but further causing loss of faith, direction and purpose.


On socio-economic and socio-political level

Not only do we have to understand that these epidemic cases are not isolated incidents.

They are rather an expression of collective exhaust, loss of meaning and the realization, that the spirit of capitalism does not cause anything but the illusion of “glory for everyone” who works hard.

It is further to understand, that remaining patriarchal structures keep women underrepresented in the working world. This not only means personal devaluation and oppression, but also causes severe economic losses.

Whereas capitalism itself and as intervened with political structures, almost dictating political agendas and influence other agendas in its favor, we have to admit, that there is no secular government.

Secular would mean, that economic policies have to be subordinated under the constitution and every violation of constitutional rights based on economic policies have to be convicted.

The reason is no other than, as Weber has proven capitalism to be, an irrational biased concept, randomly, though using spurious explanations, privilege some and disadvantage others based on said irrational biases.

The only way, to prevent economies from collapsing over and over again, causing epidemic depression and ultimately swallowing up not only our resources but also our souls, is to admit, that we have to reform the definition of capitalism and the concept of secularity.

Which needs to happen soon, since the rise of economic inequality still hasn’t reached its peak, but is soon to have.

On community level

Even though talking to therapists or others close to you might have an effect of relief, all these stories remain isolated in small, closed communities.

The first step therefore would be, to create a platform where all these stories can get publicly recognized and put into context with the overall structures surrounding people and their stories. This not only could help those suffering, by connecting, comparing and reflecting (which is said to be a way to increase resilience). Also, it would connect the dots between individual suffering and dysfunctional social environments.

Especially embedding all these stories into the broader context, I just outlined.

And maybe in this way start making some real changes.

Works Cited

Bourdieu, P., and R. Nice. Distinction: Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984. Print.

Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Time Bind When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work. Enskede: TPB, 2002. Print.

Mucci, Nicola, Gabriele Giorgi, Mattia Roncaioli, Javier Fiz Perez, and Giulio Arcangeli. “The Correlation between Stress and Economic Crisis: A Systematic Review.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment (2016): 983. Print.

“QuilesART on DeviantArt.” DeviantArt. Web. 17 Sept. 2017.

Weber, Max, Anthony Giddens, and Talcott Parsons. The Protestant Ethic ; Spirit of Capitalism. London: Routledge, 1992. Print.


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