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Is Depression a Healthy reaction to a Sick Society?

"To demand that our children feel well in the world which we leave them is an insult to their dignity."     Ivan Illich

The World Health Organisation defines depression as a 'disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration'. It declares that it is the leading cause of disability, worldwide, and by 2020 it will be the second most important disease worldwide.

WHO goes on to say that in most cases, drugs are an effective treatment. This reflects a materialistic worldview that focusses on symptoms, not root causes. A multinational drug company has claimed that "depression is caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals", but this fails to explain why it is more widespread than ever before, (9.5% of US adults suffer from a depressive disorder in any one year) and why it is still spreading. Depression is not just another disease. If it is not caused by pathogens, how can it spread?

Maslow's hierarchy of needs predicts that if securely fed and housed, people's well-being depends less on material goods, more on factors such as good relationships with and love of others. However, most people are in the thrall of an economic system that ignores this fact, punishes generosity but rewards unnatural selfishness. This results in cognitive dissonance, because people feel forced to do things of which they disapprove, leaving them feeling guilty, disempowered and depressed. This would seem to explain why depression is booming even amidst materially prospering populations. Although a human tragedy, this epidemic of depression is a boon for the economy, since consumer culture feeds off people's low self-esteem by encouraging self-indulgence and escapism, resulting in a vicious circle of increasing consumption and decreasing well-being.

We believe many depressive symptoms are a natural response of the mind to an unhealthy, unsustainable, diseased and generally distressed society. Many of those who dismiss it as being an 'illness' of the brain, are sadly mistaken, others cynically exploiting it for their own benefit. Among the chief causes are the priority given to the competitive money system which discourages healthy human relationships to the point where, starved of friendship, some people even question the validity of loving others. Altruism is a side-effect free, natural way to cope with depressive symptoms and to live a longer, healthier and happier life.

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