Over Christmas the story about Scrooge emerges, this lonely soul wondering through his world without enjoyment, meaningful friendship or companionship. There are people who at this time of year find it particularly hard; depression and loneliness can be at its peak. Interestingly, stats show that as a society depression is growing and loneliness, though subjective, is sharing the stage.
How is it that in an age when people have the ability to do anything and communicate with each other twenty-four seven through technology, they still feel alone? Young people especially have been diagnosed with varying degrees of depression, anxiety and loneliness and yet we are the generations who have the most at our disposal.
In our backyard we are not running for the bomb shelter daily, as my mother had to do as a child. Our food is not rationed and most illness that would have wiped out children or adults generations ago is preventable,
manageable or treatable. We have (despite current financial circumstances) enjoyed a relatively disposable income and want for little. Education is available, we are not forced into unwanted working conditions and exploring career options is encouraged. Our entertainment choices are abundant and travel (though more safety orientated) is still an option.
So, we come to this place in which I must ask some questions:
Why is depression so prevalent?
Why are we lonely?
Why are we medicating ourselves and our children in order to cope?
Purely speculation of course, but here it goes with some theories being bantered about…
We live in a culture that expects to be rewarded just for being who we are, special – like where I am a winner, you are a winner, everyone is a winner. Therefore, hearing anything else sets us up for one big let down. Growing up with a “nobody fails” philosophy may cause greater trauma later when in fact failure becomes inevitable and necessary for maturity.
Instant gratification is now normal from baby to adulthood, “I want it now!” If we don’t get it we are stunned, angry, gutted. It is hard to cope with the prospect of time, hard work and responsible decision making playing a factor in life.
We live on postage stamp lots with big homes that allow each member of the family to have their own space. In our bubble world we can be completely unaware of the inner workings of our home or anyone else in it. Ostensibly, a person could live with many people and still feel very much alone and nobody would know this because they are each doing their own thing without regard for the other.
The devices designed to amuse us, further alienate us from human contact. Hours pass, maybe even days without one true emotional or meaningful experience with a real person. A virtual world takes the place of reality and that for some has been detrimental to their well being and the health of their relationships. The virtual world and its people are controllable, life is not.
We have daily doses of fear, death and mistrust fed to us by media. We may not be experiencing first hand the perils of war, destruction, abandonment, torture, cruelty, infidelity…I could go on…but we are drowning in twenty-four hour news and entertainment that helps us live it through the imagined participation of the experience. This can be particularly hard on someone who is already dealing with depression…solution turn the TV/radio off, which can equal further isolation. (The world has been coming to an end for years now, check your local listings.)
Conversational skills are being eroded; the ability to communicate is essential but it has been replaced by shortened text and slang. Even at functions or family gatherings pockets of people may still be busily engaging with their computer, cell phone or hand held devices rather than personal face to face discussion. Part of our evolution relied on our ability be aware of our surroundings, notice body language, communicate at a higher level. It is very hard to hear a person when distracted let alone notice the signs and signals of depression or even body language when our eyes never meet?
Instead of looking at ourselves and working toward true understanding of what is troubling us, we prefer to take a quicker route straight to the pharmacy. Diet, exercise and self analysis is quickly abandoned. With the proper label attached to our condition we are given free license to abandon ship and float in a sea of chemicals. Sometimes medication is necessary but most the time not and yet how many of us can easily count off people who either they or their children are chemically altering themselves in order adjust feelings or behaviours.
I’m not sure I know the “Why’s of depression and loneliness” in an age of unprecedented fortune and opporunity. We have many things and people around us but so few that truly speak to our core needs. I do feel we are not grounded enough, we have shallow roots that are easily exposed and that needs to change. The human condition should not be this fragile and striving for solid ground and strong roots is necessary for our survival.