This soul of mine will never break.

Lifelyrics @Shawn Mendes

Todays post is for the fifteen year old who dreamed of being a professional boxer but took his life last week.

Why is depression on the rise? Why are suicide rates on the rise?
Why we need a shift in focus.

Strong-gens is my commitment to this change.

There is broad agreement among scientists that there are three kinds of causes of depression and anxiety, and all three play out, to differing degrees, in all depressed and anxious people. The causes are: biological, psychological (how you think about yourself), and social (the wider ways in which we live together). Very few people dispute this. But when it comes to communicating with the public, and offering help, psychological solutions have been increasingly neglected, and environmental solutions have been almost totally ignored.

Steve Ilardi, a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, summarizes the research on chemical antidepressants: “Only about 50 percent of depressed individuals experience an initial positive response to antidepressants (and only about 30 percent achieve full remission). Of all of those depressed individuals who take an antidepressant, only a small subset — estimated between 5 and 20 percent — will experience complete and enduring remission.” In other words: The drugs give some relief, and therefore have real value, but for a big majority, they aren’t enough.

Irving Kirsch, a professor of psychology who now teaches at Harvard Medical School, was initially a supporter of chemical antidepressants – but then he began to analyze this data, especially the data the drug companies had tried to keep hidden from the public. His research concluded that chemical antidepressants give you a boost, above the placebo effect, of 1.8 points on average on the Hamilton scale. This is less than a third of the boost that you get, by some estimates, from improving your sleep patterns.

Although antidepressant prescriptions have increased 500 percent since the 1980s, there has been no discernible decrease in society-wide depression rates. There’s clearly something very significant missing from the picture we have been offered.

Our focus on biology has led us to think of depression and anxiety as malfunctions in the individual’s brain or genes — a pathology that must be removed. But the scientists who study the social and psychological causes of these problems tend to see them differently. Far from being a malfunction, they see depression as partly or even largely a function, a necessary signal that our needs are not being met.

Everyone knows that human beings have innate physical needs — for food, water, shelter, clean air. There is equally clear evidence that human beings have innate psychological needs: to belong, to have meaning and purpose in our lives, to feel we are valued, to feel we have a secure future. Our culture is getting less good at meeting those underlying needs for a large number of people — and this is one of the key drivers of the current epidemic of despair.

Scientists now warrant that there are many factors in our lives which can cause depression (not just unhappiness: full depression). Loneliness, being forced to work in a job you find meaningless, facing a future of financial insecurity — these are all circumstances where an underlying psychological need is not being met. To know what to fight, we need to think harder about causes of mental malaise.

People suffer with depression for a variety of reasons. Seven are forms of disconnection: from other people, from meaningful work, from meaningful values, from the natural world, from a safe and secure childhood, from status, and from a future that makes sense to you. Two are biological: your genes, and real brain changes.

Ultimately we need to start putting in place programmes to support young people, all people. We should no longer have to feel isolated, mentally crazy, told to pop some pills or call the samaritans. With a little creativity and exploration I believe we can start to really challenge and reduce these alarming and increasing statistics of those coping with depression and contemplating suicide.