In the United States in the year 2015 there is something that is infecting all age groups, ethnicities, socio-economic classes, and regions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) depression is a disease that continues to kill, spread rapidly, and infect indiscriminately. Depression is an outbreak that is causing people to have a significantly lower quality of life and that contributes to major family stress and separation. There is a treatment: go to therapy and take medication. However, most do not access these avenues and thus the epidemic spreads.
Why do people not seek out the help that they need? If they had another life threatening disease, would they not go to the doctor, get medication, or at least be able to take some time off of work? A likely scenario is this: A human is infected by depression and then they tell someone if they are desperate enough because it feels that bad. The other human may tell them “snap out of it,” “go for a walk,” “think positively,” or “maybe you should go talk to someone,” as if they were not already talking to someone. Let’s face it, mental illness is an uncomfortable subject to talk about for many and so people usually avoid such conversations.
Let’s compare this to another disease, the spread of a flu virus. The flu shares many of the same characteristics as depression (it kills, can spread rapidly, and infects indiscriminately), yet think of what someone is likely to say to you if you tell them you have the flu. Maybe, “take some time off,” “go see the doctor,” and “what can I do to help?” The response has shifted from fear and deflection to a focus on self care, advice to seek professional assistance, and others offering support. Thus, people can just “get over” the flu because they have supportive resources that help them to overcome the disease rather then perpetuate it.
So what can we do to change the depression epidemic into the depression eradication. A crazy notion that is held in many professional circles is that depression is not seen as something that can be removed from the world but rather simply treated. I disagree with this mentality. Unlike an epidemic that is spread by an organism, we can not kill off or isolate those spreading the epidemic. However, we can access and eliminate the vector that is causing the depression epidemic to spread. From the paradigm I hold, the family systems paradigm, the vector, or transmitter of the disease, is the degeneration of the family system. The source of the degeneration is a shift of priority from taking care of each other to taking care of only ourselves and only using other human beings as a means to take care of ourselves.
I assert that if we took care of others as a priority then depression would no longer exist. If we stop perpetuating the social norm of looking after only oneself by rewarding those who do so with more money, accolades, and respect, we would be able to eliminate the vector of depression. We are feeding the vector and thus the cycle of depression continues. The epidemic will continue to spread and the quality of life will decrease. Myself and other mental health professionals will continue to treat the disease but the outbreak, with it’s rapid spread, is unmanageable and, I for one, will work to eradicate it rather than perpetuate it.