As I sit at my computer, giving myself the day to study for my two finals for the semester, what am I doing? Watching a TED Talk. I mean, I’m still learning, right?
In this TED Talk, I was shocked to hear that in the year 2020, depression will be the second most common disability after blindness. I don’t know about you, but that is mind-blowing to think about. Something that so many have yet to even recognize as a real, valid disease will plague enough people to, in my mind, practically become an epidemic.
So I ask myself, Why are so many people getting depressed? Why are cases of depression continually increasing? Again, rather than studying, I’m writing about it and doing some research. Because if this statistic proves to be correct, that means some outside factors must be in play. While my depression is genetic and chronic, other forms stem from the environment and different circumstances. The cases might only occur one time or occasionally at best, but they are still real.
While yes, I did some digging, in my head, the answer is very straightforward. Of course so many people are depressed. It’s not something we’re blind to noticing (got to love play on words). In fact, we are so used to these widespread stressors provoking depression-like symptoms, we ignore them altogether. We continue moving forward without thinking about the implications our actions cause.
These implications stem from our modern, first-world society. One that is constantly searching for the next best thing, the thing that is fast and cheap. When in doubt, we buy more. Sales and discounts can feel like a high. The next update of technology comes out, we’re standing in line anticipation. Heck, we aren’t even getting up any more because we can just order anything online.
Beyond just consumerism, our mentalities for wanting greater efficiency manifests itself into practically all aspects of life. We go into professional settings where maximum productivity is the best and never settle for anything less. In our education, we determine our worth through grades and our abilities to juggle multiple strenuous tasks at one time. Often, the only reward is a letter or number. Even that reward isn’t good enough anymore for future generations of students, as many lack any motivation to achieve their full potentials unless some sort of prize is an end result.
I can continue into even more areas of life, but I’ll stop there. In this system, so many people lose any sense of meaning and purpose beyond competition and success. The external pressures to achieve what is considered “the best” steer us away from true passion and emotion. We have to find emotion in places that lack it altogether, such as shopping malls and online stores. Our own emotional well-being and meaningful relationships take a backseat to what is seen as success, earning the most money, affording many of the best material goods, and projecting that success through professional promotions or status updates on social media.
This vicious cycle is isolating ourselves from true humanity. We surround ourselves in these manufactured sources of positivity and move too quickly and hurry toward the next best thing to even look back or think twice about it. Days become monotonous and blur into each other. Just another day to sit in a cubicle or complete another set of various tasks or mindlessly buy things you don’t need.
Depression is not randomly popping up out of the blue. We as people are becoming dysfunctional. Our societal system is perpetuating it. And we do nothing about it. We look at the reactive result without pinpointing the cause, nor are we proactively taking action to change. Our definition of a “good life” turns into the exact opposite as we lose sight of our own humanity. We forget what a life truly well-spent looks like without some sort of price tag involved.
We cannot pretend depression is wreaking havoc on us. It’s a warning sign that we as a society are on the wrong path. But just like our stigmas, we ignore it. Believing depression isn’t there won’t make it go away. In fact, we see it more as an inconvenience to the capitalist society we have created. It’s just slowing us down. Stopping to slow down and place higher value on relationships and love and charity slows us down.
Especially in a time of year encouraging that ever-present goodness in mankind, we need to slow down. It is starting to become less of a choice and more of a necessity before we slam into a metaphorical brick wall and don’t know what went wrong when the answer was right under our noses the entire time. For people who question those who aren’t happy, we are further dehumanizing each other into those who are happy and unhappy. We want to just treat the unhappiness itself, when we should really be treating the people. Humans. Stuck in a society that has lost its way. That lack empathy to the constant suffering surrounding us. That act without considering the resulting suffering. That construct a reality that views struggle as an epidemic rather than a testament to the strength of the human spirit simply trying to stay afloat in a world where it seems unwelcome.
So the increased numbers of depression are not an epidemic. They are a wake-up call. We can encourage people to seek help for signs of depression, but we should also be encouraging each other to seek change. We are mislabeling this phenomenon, clinicalizing it for profit in the form of antidepressants and therapy not typically covered under health insurance. Depression itself can now be a consumer industry, a phrase that tastes bitter in my mouth.
If we are reflecting the effects of a capitalist, money and success-hungry society, it’s about time we reflect the values we should truly be prioritizing most. When are goals for ourselves look less like a to-do list and more like inspiration to live well, maybe then we’ll gain our sight back.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie