Why the prevalence of so much depression in the U.S.? In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, spoke to the National Press Club about an American depression epidemic: “We discovered two astonishing things about the rate of depression across the century. The first was there is now between ten and twenty times as much of it as there was fifty years ago. And the second is that it has become a young person’s problem. When I first started working in depression thirty years ago. . . the average age of which the first onset of depression occurred was 29.5. . . .Now the average age is between 14 and 15.”
Sad! Even sadder, the deck is stacked against the struggling citizen being squeezed into passive consumerhood almost from the get go. In schools he's branded with ADD and forced on drugs because he sees he's merely being trained to be a cog in a corporate machine. At work, the intelligent employee who sees himself performing mechanical drudge tasks beneath his brain power can't help feeling enraged, frustrated. And then there is the fundamental bias in mental health professionals when any one seeks assistance. They then learn that their "problems" - often inattention and noncompliance - are treated as mental disorders. Those with extended schooling have lived for many years in a world where they all pay attention to much that is unstimulating. In this world, one routinely complies with the demands of authorities......or else....is deemed a "trouble maker". Thus for many MDs and Ph.Ds, the genuinely passionate people who rebel against this attentional and behavioral compliance appear to be from another world.
By accepting this tommyrot (committing the fundamental attribution error), people become mentally passive, no longer transgressive in their outlooks. They end up blaming themselves instead of the foul system that plays both ends against the middle to trap them. Enter the so-called “free market” which is really a COERCIVE market in which people are forced to compete but almost never win. THIS above all is responsible for the absurd rise in depression. And so we become disengaged from our jobs and our schooling. Young people are pressured to amass increasingly large student-loan debt so as to acquire the credentials to get a job, in a profession for which they often have little enthusiasm for. And increasing numbers of people are completely socially isolated – so will tend to self-medicate using assorted drugs, sex or even writing hateful, angry blogs in which they thumb their noses at the world.
How to know if a market is free or coerced? Charles Reich provided the test ('Opposing the System’, 1995, p. 22):
"A free market produces results that favor the health of society as a whole, because an essential balance is maintained. But in a coercive market, the balance is destroyed, the earning power of work and the standard of living of workers declines, and society as a whole is devastated while those with economic power gain an ever more unbalanced share of the nation's economic wealth"
This is exactly what we have with the top 1% controlling 57% of the nation's wealth, and 400 billionaires with the same monetary resources as 150 million fellow citizens! And they control the purveyors of PR, whether based on university "research" or the compromised media, who want people to believe THEY are responsible for their failures and not the corrupt SYSTEM which forces them to play both ends against the middle and lose.
Merely take the example of a family barely making it, one of whose members now get a promotion. But by getting that promotion - earning say $5,000 more a year - which might help them breathe easier, they then forfeit their food stamps and Medicaid benefits, so are right back behind the "eight ball". Fairness? Hell, the system's coordinators and promoters never heard of it!
Factoring into the false consciousness that gives rise to mass depression is the "fundamental attribution error" which is defined as:
The tendency to credit or blame individuals for their level of failure or success without considering the aspects of the social structure that impel or impede their progress. Thus, it results in praise of the system and condemnation of individuals who are defined as losers.
This in turn leads to workers who mutate into automatons prepared to tolerate any amount of systematic abuse from a corrupt system, because they lay the blame on their own "lack of ambition" or some other false excuse contrived by the corporate thought controllers to deflect blame from their own greed. Then, when their own expectations for their future success aren't met, they turn the selfsame perverted paradigm onto themselves and ...become depressed. Which can manifest in many ways.
This may well be at the heart and core of why so many of the working and middle classes vote against their own best interests (even when they're on food stamps). Precisely because they blame all or most of their failures to get ahead on themselves, instead of the vicious system of economic tyranny where it belongs. In this sad way, people become passive and their own worst enemies. The idea that our mental illness epidemic is being caused by a peculiar rebellion against a dehumanizing society, is then removed from the mainstream memetic map. When a societal problem grows to become all encompassing, we often no longer even notice it.
The poor shmuck who just killed himself because he got downsized two weeks before his pension? Hell, he should have chosen a better job! The sorry loser who sits in a depressed apt., cranking out hideous hate blogs all day until he's on the verge of a stroke? He needs to go to a shrink - who, of course - will blame him for not being "adjusted". She will then steer him onto Paxil or Zoloft and if those don't work, likely have him briefly committed for electro-convulsive therapy. The young mother who lost her job because she couldn't find or afford child care? Tough luck! She shouldn't have had so many kids, or any kid, period! And so it goes!
What happens when struggling people are shut out by the deliberately dysfunctional system? Well, then they will seek to survive any way they can! They will most likely try the route of getting Social Security disability or maybe some form of VA benefits (if they were in the service) to be able to continue, since working is no longer an option - at least in their minds.
Here's a stat to blow minds:
The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders (including depression) that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from one in 184 Americans to one in 76. For children, the rise is even more startling—a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades,” as Marcia Angell summarizes in a New York Times Book Review. Angell also reports that a large survey of adults conducted between 2001 and 2003 sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health found that at some point in their lives, 46 percent of Americans met the criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association for at least one mental illness.
We literally have nearly half the country putatively off its rocker! Another wowser: In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400% in the last two decades, making antidepressants the most frequently used class of medications by Americans ages 18-44 years. By 2008, 23% of women ages 40–59 years were taking antidepressants. And we won't even add to this all the poor zombies on sleeping pills like Ambien, because they can't sleep properly!
Another barometer - using questions - to assess whether our society is as fucked up as it appears or not. Do our major societal institutions promote:
· Respectful personal relationships—or manipulative impersonal ones?
· Community, trust, and confidence—or isolation, fear and paranoia?
· Empowerment—or helplessness?
· Autonomy (self-direction)—or heteronomy (institutional-direction)?
· Participatory democracy—or authoritarian hierarchies?
· Diversity and stimulation—or homogeneity and boredom?
I warrant most readers will know which answers are forthcoming. I warrant they will also see why this society - such as it is- is totally fucked up and generating fucked up, angry or pathologically sick people almost at twice the birth rate. One way to make it healthier? Ease up and back off from all the hyper-militarist bullshit which is creating authoritarian personalities at a rate unheard of in our history. According to Harvey A. Hornstein in his terrific book Cruelty and Kindness: A New Look at Aggression and Altruism (Prentice-Hall, 1976, 'We and They', p.13.), this militarist-oriented personality "is pathologically rigid, absolutist and displays little or no flexibility" . In the words of some, “It’s my way or the highway”. This type of psychotic then becomes ensconced in the corporate world, say as a bully employer or worse, the guy in the next cubicle!
The problem with endemic militarism is that it literally breeds millions of such personalities, or else paranoid ones that tend to join subversive Right wing terror groups, or gun groups. As Hornstein shows, deprived of their manhood - either because of losing a job to a black or brown person (or woman), or unable to provide for family - they take out their anger and frustrations on anyone or anything that they deem offends them. In the process they dehumanize their targets, using epithets like "monkeys", "baboons", "libtards" or "c*nts" to try to make themselves feel superior - but they never do. In the end, despite all the words of roiling hate, their depression continues and their families and society pay the price.
Can this insanity be halted? Maybe, but the odds right now are slim. Too many are caught up in the brain grinder. It will likely take an alien invasion - with the focus on lobotomizing all the authoritarians and dispatching them to Tau Ceti- to fight a real war against a giant race of super -armored beetles or giant spiders. (See 'Starship Troopers' or better, read the book by Robert Heinlein.)