Many things in today's world break the human spirit
The only surprise in the story at
the weekend about 30 million Americans suffering from depression
at a cost of $52 billion in lost production each year was that
the figures weren't higher.
I suspect that here in New Zealand
more than 16 per cent of the population suffers some sort of
depression. They must, or the Government's bill for
tranquillisers, anti-depressants and other mood-changing drugs
wouldn't run into tens of millions of dollars a year.
And that doesn't take into account
all the millions spent on alcohol and all the illicit drugs that
we imbibe to try to make life more liveable.
Considering the lives many of us
live it's not surprising that depression is on the increase. I
suspect that little of it is the clinical variety. Most of it
will be simply a chronic dose of the blues, brought on by the
pressures of living in a world that seems to insist that the only
measure of success is to have lots of money and the property and
prestige that goes with it.
It's a world that tells us that
the bodies God gave us are not good enough and need to be
modified one way or another to make us conform to an ideal
constantly paraded before us by the mind-benders of the
advertising and entertainment industries.
So some of us pump our bodies full
of steroids or silicone or Botox - all of which can have serious,
even fatal, side-effects - and others get hooked by bulimia and
its sister, anorexia nervosa, alcoholism, overeating, sex,
gambling, work, drug dependency or become fitness freaks.
In spite of all the efforts over a
lot of years by the people who run the education system to
convince us there is no such thing as winning and losing, society
still makes much of success.
It will tolerate mediocrity only
because there's so much of it around, but holds failure in
contempt. Ask the All Blacks or the Black Caps or any of the
other Black thingummies we dote on.
You'll know what I mean about
mediocrity if you deal with retailers and service industries and
most Government businesses in the health, welfare, justice,
educational and insurance fields, many of whose employees -
particularly those who bear the designation "manager" or "team
leader" - have developed mediocrity into an art form.
We live in a society in which
hysteria is just under the surface and erupts with monotonous, if
brief, regularity (as witness, for instance, the hoo-ha over a
dog attacking a little girl, the Sars "epidemic" and the
Palmerston North paedophile.
The knee-jerk reaction over the
dog attack led to immature, ill-drafted legislation - which
penalised good dog-owners rather than the delinquent minority -
being rushed through Parliament and to silly people taking flight
from puppies in parks.
The Sars outbreak, which almost
brought some of the world's airlines and tourist operators to the
verge of bankruptcy, is fizzling out having caused a small
fraction of the deaths that ordinary influenza or malaria did in
the same period.
And we've heard not a peep about
the poor, sick sod in Palmerston North since a couple of days
after he was released from jail.
We live in a society in which
there is again a growing sense of powerlessness as government,
both national and local, rides roughshod over our wishes. Public
opinion seems to count for less and less while national and local
politicians behave more and more dictatorially.
And they steal from us, too. The
Labour Government steals our money through hidden tax increases,
as Colin James so aptly pointed out on Tuesday, while local
authorities steal from us by changing the way their rates are
reckoned and/or collected.
Is it any wonder more and more of
us live in a constant state of unhappiness, which doctors and
others in the "helping professions" are only too quick to label
depression? And to throw a pill at. Or to direct some counselling
Much of it is the sort of
counselling summed up in a headline on a column in Canvas last
weekend: "Think yourself happy." If that were possible, surely
there'd be no depression left, except for those who find comfort
in being that way.
As Abraham Lincoln said: "Most
folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."
The failure to deal with
depression - except by treating the symptoms with pills and/or
"therapy" - is quite plain: it is a disease that affects men and
women not just in mind and body, but in spirit.
Science can assist the body with
medicines and the mind with psychology, but it can't heal the
spirit. In an age in which God is seen by so many to be a
historical fiction, and by a lot more to be of no account even if
he exists, men and women who suffer from depression have no place
I know, because I've been
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