HERE is an article by a WSJ columnist in their Opinion Journal section about depression in America. It really ticked me off.
It ticks me off because the author says this at the end of the article:
I suspect, however, that cultural differences can account for only so much. Economics must also be at work. Consider Jean-Baptiste Say’s famous insight that supply creates its own demand. We know this to be true about, for instance, personal computers: There was never any demand for PCs until Steve Jobs put one on the market and persuaded consumers it was something they should have. Just so with depression: Is there a country on earth where Prozac is more widely prescribed, or therapy more readily available, than the U.S.? It should hardly be surprising, therefore, that Americans now find themselves so depressed.
None of this is to say that depression is not, for those who suffer acutely from it, a serious matter or that it doesn’t warrant attention and care. But it is also true that what we now call “depression” is something previous generations also knew, albeit with different names: melancholy, unhappiness, “the blues.” In song, in church, in labor, in philosophy and in the bonds of family, community and tradition they were often able to find genuine consolations.
Such consolations still exist, though we no longer think of them as cures. Given how badly our own “cures” seem to be working, perhaps it would be well if we did.
Well, here’s the problem. There is nothing magical about the word “depression”. It is used colloquially for probably a dozen different diseases, maybe more. Some of those diseases are more common in different places. But generally speaking, any kind of illness of the mind can fall under the category of depression.
Furthermore, it is not simply a matter of consolation or of being happy. What a silly thing to say. The goal of life is not to be happy at the end of the day. Our goal as Christians is to be in communion with Christ, and to find our rest in Him. Even most other religions or secularists will recognize that “happiness” is not everything. I’m all for happiness, but please. Is that a medical diagnosis?
The same may be true for the word consolation. It evokes images of patting someone on the back when they’ve had a bad day, or simply sitting down and listening to a friend. Again, I’m all in favor of consolation. Consolation may be found in many different places, some of which the author listed. Consolation (I would suggest) is a portion of the healing which must come about in order to recover from depression. But it is not the “cure”.
Mr. Stephens, your article cited a lot of statistics, and pulled the public conversation about depression backwards, not forwards. I hope that you never have to suffer as we have suffered, but if you do, you will find your own words as painful as I do.
PS Yes, I’m in a crabby mood today.