I just watched this video and recommend it.
Stephen Ilardi made two very important points.
First, depression is a disease of civilization. He spoke of research done on a hunter-gatherer tribal people. What the researcher found was that depression was almost non-existent among them. They lived a hard life and often hard deaths, but they weren’t clinically depressed. Nor did they have many of the other diseases of civilization, all of which are related to inflammation in the body.
He points out that studies have shown that depression is related to inflammation in the brain, at least partly caused by an unhealthy ratio between Omega 6 fats and Omega 3 fats. Combined with the stresses and social isolation of modern society, clinical depression has become a massive problem.
Second, clinical depression is a growing problem. Each generation has higher rates of depression than the generation before. It correctly can be called an epidemic at this point and it increases as people age. The younger generations will as they age, if the pattern holds, have 50% or more experiencing clinical depression.
This gets at an issue I continually return to. Everything is getting worse for the young generation such as poverty, economic inequality, unemployment and homelessness. My generation is the first generation do worse than their parents in the 20th century. My generation as children had poverty rates not seen since the Great Depression and had the worst child suicide rates since such things were recorded. How bad does society have to get before even children become so desperate and hopeless that they kill themselves?
Most people in the older generations never personally experienced these kinds of conditions. Because of this, they have no tangible understanding, no sympathy. They can’t see how this is a systemic problem throughout society, a problem transcending individuals and even generations.
I’ve previously discussed this a bit in terms of capitalist realism (see here and here), but I’ve never gone into much detail about this before. The analysis behind the concept of capitalist realism is based on the collective inability to imagine alternatives and hence collective inability to perceive the problems of the present system. The individual is the product and the scapegoat of capitalist realism.
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I decided to look more closely at the increasing rate of suicide.
There definitely is something going on in society. It’s hard to make a simple assessment, but obviously particular demographics are hit really hard, specifically the youth demographic (also particular states and white men). A lot of it seems to do with the economy such as with peaks during industrialization and the Great Depression and then a slow rise during the era of globalization. Overall national suicide rates go up and down. It is only with particular demographics that you see long-term trends.
U.S. Suicide Rates, 1950–2003
(per 100,000 population)
|All ages, age adjusted||13.2||13.2||13.2||13.2||12.5||11.8||10.4||10.7||10.9||10.8|
|65 years and over||30.0||24.5||20.8||17.6||20.5||17.9||15.2||15.3||15.6||14.6|
|85 years and over||28.8||26.0||19.0||19.2||22.2||21.3||19.6||17.5||18.0||16.9|
|Male, all ages||21.2||20.0||19.8||19.9||21.5||20.3||17.7||18.2||18.4||18.0|
|Female, all ages||5.6||5.6||7.4||5.7||4.8||4.3||4.0||4.0||4.2||4.2|