Since the early 1990's, the use of antidepressants has increased four hundred percent, such that in America, the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth, nearly one in ten persons over the age of 12 take antidepressants. Antidepressants are the third most prescribed type of drug in the United States. Most are white women; over 30% have not seen a doctor in over a year.

According to a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the journal Health Affairs, there is no diagnosis of depression for nearly seventy percent of the prescriptions given out to patients. The study found that the prescriptions for antidepressants that are issued without any diagnosis of depression had increased from sixty percent in 1996 to seventy three percent in 2007, a span of only twelve years.

And yet, in the 2008 issue of Public Library of Science, a review of thirty-five clinical trials found that the most popular antidepressants are not much more effective than sugar pills. Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that these most popular drugs only benefit those with severe depression.

There is evidence of increased risk for women for sudden cardiac death, and this class of drugs if taken during pregnancy may increase the infant's risk for congenital heart defects and autism.

There are numerous side effects associated with the various types of antidepressants; a good resource is The Little Pill Book, which is published annually and includes both brand names and generic names for a wide variety of medicines. This book provides official, FDA-approved drug information as well as guidelines from leading pharmacists.

Because medical doctors often do not keep up on the characteristics of all the drugs they prescribe, it is good practice to keep this book on hand along with your other first aid and medical supplies.

What Can Be Done to Mitigate “The Blues?”

Life brings us plenty of challenges, and sometimes life brings truly sad events. Depression or down moods are really a part of life, something that is a part of the natural flow of life.

Often “the blues” are our first, best red flag that our life is out of balance. It may be we are fatigued, not getting enough sleep, and suffering from overload. Perhaps a relationship is causing stress, or we are unhappy with our job.

In these cases, it is important to take control of our life and take the steps needed to take care of ourselves. I've often reminded myself that I can not help others or meet my responsibilities if I run myself into the ground.

Prayer and Meditation

Sometimes the issue is a need to reconnect the spiritual relationship with the Creator, in whatever way that is most fulfilling. I love using healing music, especially music that has been developed to trigger Alpha or Theta waves in the brain. These are healing levels of brain activity, which stimulate a relaxation response and stimulate our creative energy. I especially like the meditation music of Tibet, or Gregorian Chants; however, music that you love will work the best.

Prayer and meditation are powerful approaches for those times when depression lingers; in fact often times the very thing we need is to give ourselves time out to think deeper about where our life may be out of balance.

Get Moving

In Europe, the most frequent prescription for depression is exercise; how very different from the American habit of reaching for a pill in order to feel better.

There is a genuinely healing aspect of nature. We humans love our technology, and it's fun and interesting. I am certainly not suggesting we have to avoid modern urban activities and lifestyle, for that is purely taking a stance of denial that would not be only losing our freedom of choice but is all too grim. However, we still need to get out a take a walk in nature on a regular basis.

For untold millennia humans have spent most of their time out in nature; it is our home. Too much time absent amid electronics and artificial light leaves us feeling isolated.

Somewhere in the mind-body connection between movement and meditation are the healing practices of Yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Gong. I mention these practices time and again in my writing; in truth, these are healing and life-changing practices that cost nothing. Although, I do recommend taking a class to help get over initial inertia, and taking a class from a good teacher is the best antidote for those times when we slack off.

Eat Well

This can be a challenge. When I began learning about natural foods over 45 years ago, I remember a friend saying that we were like the modern version of a hunter in an extreme environment far back in history, searching amid the inedible and poisonous plants, dodging dangerous wildlife simply in order to eat.

Today's modern hunter must read labels, stalking the few real foods that remain in the supermarket amidst aisles and aisles of industrialized, processed foods. Like the master hunter, we have to seek out the local organic farmers to even be able to afford food that is not polluted or has had the life forces processed out of it.

Healing Plants

Here is where a trained herbalist or holistic medical practitioner can help you. It is true there are thousands of offerings that are touted and offered by way of the Internet. However, this can be a very expensive experiment. It is better to get informed advice when taking any supplement, from someone who is experienced with the plant and its effects. Some herbs must not be taken with certain medicines; some powerful healing herbs are toxins – because they are used to destroy pathogens.

Some of the most humble and common herbs are very gentle and effective. Because there is so much interest in alternatives to modern drugs such as herbal treatments, there are also plenty of inferior products out there. In these cases one invariable is wasting money on products that are either not useful for your condition, or are of such poor quality that they will not help.

St. John's Wort is a good example; it has a long history of use for depression, among other ailments. However, research is showing that it is effective in some kinds of depression and not others. Find a good holistic medical practitioner in order to focus on what will work for you.

For all but severe depression, there are proactive steps we can take that may be more effective than drugs, with better results and more enduring effect, without the side effects. I have found that sometimes depression is a messenger, and that when take control of my health, and take time out to access what is imbalanced in my life, I come out stronger than before.

I would love to hear from you about your experience with depression. What strategies have proven most effective for you to support self-healing? Please do share your experience with others in the Comments section below; others can benefit from your experience.

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