Depression has become the third largest individual health problem in Australia – around one million of us will experience a depressive illness this year alone. What makes us depressed and how do we shore ourselves up? In this article series we'll look at how the paths of life can be debilitating or rebuilding and how to find the fuel to build again from where you are. This article is about depression, what it is and how depression can reach up and grab us as were we live.
The term depression is broad, we can use it here to refer to symptoms like low mood, low self esteem and a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. The DSM-IV, which stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition, is the manual that mental health professionals use to classify psychological disorders. In the DSM-4, depression is found under the category of mood disorders and is then broken down into subcategories of specific types of depression. Here, we're using a high level definition based on symptoms and we understand that depression tends to hang around, its onging, and these symptoms tend to effect how we function in our daily life.
These are some of the base line factors that are thought to contribute to depression:
1. Genetics – depression tends to run in families and in genes;
2. Brain chemistry – imbalances of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, which are brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, are thought to be involved with the development of depression;
3. Stressful events – the loss of a loved one, a major life change, or a serious illness, have been known to trigger depression. While some people have normal and temporary feelings of sadness and loss after a stressful event, others will experience clinical depression;
4. Gender – depression affects women more than men – at least two times more often -depression in women could be related to gender-specific factors, such as menstrual cycles, pregnancy or menopause.
As well as these factors, the way we live our modern lives make us particularly ripe for experiencing depression. Below is a list of some of the cultural and group functions that can help us feel good about ourselves or contribute to low self esteem and loss of interest and pleasure in the everyday.
I call these our Group Missing Pieces:
1. Lack of context – where am I? Without a strong connection with and identity in the land under our feet we can struggle to identify our Home. I was reading a piece of work about this by Glenys Livingstone, who was referred to her as “… one of earth's most alienated animals in that I did not sense belonging Here.”
2. Lack of rites – who am I? We are passing the miles in our lives often without conscious attention. Girls become women and boys became men, then parents, then grandsparents often without family or larger community celebration. This allows us to age without finding our newly grown selves in the context of global or even universal anchors.
3. Lack of fulfillment – what for? An overly mechanical environment can hinder our ability to follow our body's natural rhythms. Without the ability to be both passive and active in turn we can lose the chance to save the fruits of our labor.
Without the chance to follow our own growth, to share it with communities who can celebrate who we are and to explore where we're from and where we're going to we can open ourselves up to depression. When we address some of these Group Missing Pieces we build times and ways of reconnection with ourselves – where we are in our lives. Through that built connection to ourselves we can build communities that are growing stronger with every passing rite and we can create safe havens for individuals to dismantle what no longer is needed and grieve things that time has taken away.