An interesting new theory is circulating … but does it go far enough?
Depression Epidemic in Millennials
The rate of depression is soaring among adolescents and millennials. Taking stats from USA — in the three years between 2013 and 2016, diagnosis rates increased by 63 percent in adolescents (ages 12-17) and 47 percent in millennials (ages 18-34). Researchers are discussing several theories about why depression is increasing in USA. Several causes such as the pressure of maturing from teenages in a stagnant economy, high student debt, pressure from social media and peers for conformance to social norms or standards, and decreasing social stigma about mental illness.
Solutions for solving or reducing the epidemic of depression are discussed with far less fervour. It could be due to the high cost of mental health treatment through health funds in USA, or due to the lack of consensus among experts on the cause of depression. Without consensus, experts are finding it difficult to agree on an effective response to the depression epidemic.
In all this conundrum, Mel Schwartz, a psychotherapist and the author of The Possibility Principle, believes that much of today’s depression is situational rather than clinical, and is in favour of a cultural revolution to solve this problem.
“Obviously there are many cases of people who are clinically depressed,” Schwartz said. “But the majority of depression is situational — it is not seeing your way out of debt, living in a culture of intense competition where you are being told if you don’t succeed you are a loser.”
According to Schwartz, situational depression could be due to a loss of meaning and purpose, brought about by a capitalistic culture pushing people into a never-ending rat race. “The hyper-focus on winning and succeeding drives a lot of this emotional and psychological disaster,” he said.
In his words, “The solution is learning to think differently, which is being able to embrace uncertainty,”. Mel says that “Embracing uncertainty creates possibilities, and when we have possibilities we don’t feel depressed, so what allows us to see possibility is to step into uncertainty, embrace it and embrace the flow of life.”
Lets see if his hypothesis is reasonable. We do hear clients talking of being trapped in a hostile culture that doesn’t care about you, your success or failures — and sometimes talk of friends and acquaintances finding delight in their failure — creating situational depression. Once this has happened, you cannot just think your way out of depression by embracing uncertainties as outlined by Mel.
The piling student debt is taking its toll on the millennials in the US. During there college days, they were strongly recommended to take this debt at high interest rates based on the premise it will help them get adequately paying job — a job to pay back their loans.
In reality, the millennials are working two to three part-time jobs and living with their parents to pay off their student loan commitments. Sometimes the monthly payment on these loans is higher than their car loan payments or in some cases even higher than the mortgage payments. Will Mel’s suggestion of embracing possibilities work in such situations?
While the epidemic of depression could likely be situational, we have to be careful in suggesting remedies that ignore the reality of the situation. A cultural revolution may be needed, and maybe it should begin by embracing uncertainty, but it just can’t end there. It needs to go further. We need to start seeing our fellow beings as human beings with compassion and understand their problems so that we can take concrete steps to help them solve them— irrespective of how those problems happened. The cultural revolution has to embrace much more than uncertainty — we need to bring back the culture of compassion, mercy, generosity, and humanity.
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