I have two longstanding offline friends in their mid-60s who were both diagnosed with clinical depression a few years ago.
Since then, one of them has had ECT — the 21st century version of the lobotomy — and the other has been on various sleeping pills or antidepressants which have left her groggy or physically ill.
It does beg the question, since Big Pharma has been spending its money carefully over the past two decades on new drugs and associated R&D, whether their desire to aggressively market drugs is an attempt to quickly recoup their losses on research and development.
Thankfully, we do not receive these in the UK, but almost every American channel relies on Big Pharma for advertising. Even after a week in the US, my ears ring with the nasal ‘Ask your doctor!’
When I was growing up in the second half of the 20th century, it was a big deal for people to get prescriptions. Around the 1970s, this began to change. By the 1980s, it seemed, people of all ages were ‘on something’ for heart, cancer or mental conditions. In the 1990s, behavioural medication for youngsters became the rage. Some schools would not accept pupils or students unless they were medicated (e.g. Ritalin), based on physicians’ reports on their mental health.
Excitable? Take a pill. Depressed? Take a pill. ADHD? Take a pill.
As my friends are pleasantly reserved individuals with a good network of friends (family is dying off), I don’t know what their issues are. One is an atheist, the other a Protestant clergyperson. It could be that the answers to life which they thought they had are no longer as valid as they once were. Perhaps the intimation of mortality is creeping up on both, neither of whom knows each other. Sadly, one has lost some of her memory from the ECT and the other is having serious physical health problems which I privately attribute to her medication.
Both had a relative who was clinically depressed. This seems to be the only common denominator. I find this automatic, almost mediaeval, association from the medical world to them somewhat off-putting: ‘Because your ancestor was depressed, you will be, too’. That sounds so superstitious. Everyone’s life is different. They are certainly not living out their parents’ lives. Yet, one of my neighbours also has had some ‘depression’, for which she sought medication: ‘It runs in my family. They told me I would get it, too. Our son is similarly affected’. Sadly, the young man is also taking some sort of pill.
What a load of rubbish. I’m not discounting that depression runs in families, although I would be very sceptical if anyone pulled that line on me then pushed a prescription under my nose. (Depression does not run in my family, by the way.) We’re all a combination of two different families with different genes, backgrounds and experiences.
I wrote in a comment on this blog a few weeks ago that no one fully knows what each of us has been through in life. Anyone reading this right now could have been molested or abused as a child, suicidal or clinically depressed (properly diagnosed). With God’s grace, many can pull through. I pray that they do.
Others have moved from one continent to another — half a world away — when they were youngsters. That, too, can be traumatic. Different mores, cultures, attire and habits can require some acclimation.
I lived and travelled through most of the US because of my father’s job transfers within the same company. I’ve known others who did the same internationally because their fathers were in the military. Whilst a whole world opens up to children like us — as we were at the time — it can also cause reactions which people who live within a 15-mile radius of where they grew up don’t have and will never understand. We sometimes lack the coping mechanisms to deal with certain situations, although, with His grace, we learn to acquire them gradually, even as adults.
A large part of dealing with rejection and isolation as a youngster — e.g. ‘the new kid in class’ — involves these coping mechanisms. I couldn’t expect my parents, both of whom had grown up in the same city and knew many of the same families, to help me with that. They would not have known how. It would be a lie to say that I was never lonely or that I never dreaded the first day in a new school where everyone else already knew each other. There are times even today when I really have to talk myself up for certain situations involving strangers, especially if they have lived in my neighbourhood for many years. Do we — will we — understand each other after several months or a year, even if it’s only working together on a committee? For me, it is a gamble. Always. Normally, it has a 50-50 result. Maybe everyone else has the same result. I don’t know. I’ve never dared ask.
So it makes me think that as parents, extended family, teachers and mentors — wherever we find ourselves — it would be a good thing to help the younger generation find their feet and give some solid advice. Sometimes people who lack coping mechanisms get defensive — I’m finding this with the aforementioned friends. Maybe someone in close proximity to them might want to say, ‘Hey, this person is really concerned about you. You don’t need to reveal everything, but check in a bit more often and let them know how you’re really doing. They can handle it. You might feel better, too.’
It’s a bit like the way someone could have said in my childhood, ‘Just relax a bit. Yes, it’s intimidating being the new kid on the block, but you’ll get through it. You always do.’ Happily, our generation wasn’t so pill-crazy in those days. Situations resolved themselves, eventually.
It just seems to me that our common sense is failing us in the West. Perhaps we are looking for quick results. Perhaps we should be seeking patience and prayer. We look for solace in a pill or another type of brain rewiring instead (e.g. ECT). In the worst cases, it’s suicide, sadly. I cannot help but feel that our search for answers in psychiatry and pharmacology, barring everything else, isn’t doing us much good as a society. This isn’t to say that certain people really need medication; some do, but many probably do not. Cognitive behavioural therapy or even encouraging oneself to adapt to life changes would suffice; yes, they take time. There is no easy fix. For the Christian, faith, prayer and solid Bible study (no revisionism!) can help a lot.
I’ll have more on this in the next few days. First, however, to pharmacology.
As we go on, you’ll see the links with these mass murders, many of which are related to behavioural disorders and psychotropic medication which could have been nipped in the bud in childhood with proper adult support and grounding in faith.