Why is depression on the rise?

To find out why are we getting depressed more…

For a long time I have been thinking to write about this topic. 2020 has been a very unfortunate year. Not only due to Covid-19, but also due to large number of suicides in bollywood, and other parts of the world. Most of these deaths are due to either anxiety about uncertainity of future, or relationship issues which also leads to stress. Also, the pandemic has certainly exacerbated the stress levels in most of us. I have been in Art of Living for a while, and one of the main initiatives of the organization is working towards reducing the stress and anxiety amongst the people, as stress often leads to depression. As per WHO, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. And even more disturbing fact is that every 40 sec, one person in the world commits suicide. Most of us are either not aware of this, or very often we overlook these facts, assuming it will never happen in our life. Only, when this hits in our life like a brick in the head, that’s when we realize how serious this problem is.

Stress, anxiety, and thereby depression is not something of a recent change in our life. Even our forefathers, and ancestors have had some element of stress in life. It could be due to poverty, wars, epidemic, or even oppression from colonial masters ( like British did back in India and other parts of the world). I could not imagine how much stress the jews in the concentration camp might have underwent with the constant threat of getting gased, alive! So, I do not say that stress is a modern age issue, or I am not being a luddite to blame technology for this as well.

But what we all are seeing ( especially the medical professionals, mental health experts and even spiritual advisors) is the significant rise in stress and anxiety levels in the last few years. So, I am wondering why would this be, when today, if for a moment we keep aside the dangers of nuclear holocaust, or even avoid getting into the politics of poverty, war or pandemic, we see that human life has reached quite an advanced level when we no longer have to worry about food shortage, staying warm in winter, or cold in summer, communicating with our dear ones over long distance, or fast and reliable transportation etc. Our life has never been so better, simpler, fast and comfortable in the history of human civilization.

Then, the question still lingers is why are we suffering from depression inspite of all the modern technologies and gadgets at our service? This seems like it has to do something with human nature itself. I do not say this is an endemic human trait. Rather, it is more so linked to our habits ( which could be technologically influenced, like for example, getting depressed after seeing goody-goody posts from a friend on facebook or instagram.) or even forgetting about our purpose in life ( which happens when we are too much involved in the joy ride which life offers).

One of the peculiar expectation which we often have is we should never have problems in life. This expectation itself is flawed. We wish all we had is only good times, and bad times should never occur in our life. No one wants to struggle, or witness failure. Though there is nothing wrong to be hopeful of good times, but expecting that we should never see problems is one of the reasons for being anxious, which leads to depression. When we become rich, or successful, we all wish it never goes away. But this leads to consistent fear of losing what we have achieved, and then we do not even enjoy what we have. Rather, we just keep working or worrying to not lose this. If we keep doing this everyday, then I won’t be surprised to see depression knocking at our door!

Similar thing happens when we compare with others. As I mentioned about the facebook effect before, comparison with others is an excellent way to get depressed. And this explains the rise in depression in the last few years. Because we have developed all the perfect tools to compare and thereby get depressed on a large scale. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube are some of the best mediums to express our ideas and thoughts, but at the same time there are also perfect destination to harness the vices of jealousy, envy, comparison and narcissism. Yes, because we just do not look at our posts on the wall, or see our uploaded content. We see others, and we start comparing. Though this can also be looked from the prism of learning, and making us better. But more often, we take it in a negative way, which leads to consistent thinking, worrying, and being obsessed about others. Getting more likes, comments, views, shares, emoticons, followers becomes our obsession and sooner or later, we find our mind occupied with only becoming more famous or good looking than others. Isn’t this a perfect receipe for making stress in our mind?

Gurudev Sri Sri RaviShankar, the founder of Art of Living says, that one of the main causes of depression is thinking ‘Just me, what will happen to me, me, me?’ When we overthink about me, it is the easiest way to become stressed and depressed. And I agree that this has increased enormously in modern age. Why? Because the very fact that we no longer have any urgent problems which will affect our life on a daily basis. Few centuries before, people died from starvation, disease, epidemics, adverse weather conditions, exertion due to physical work etc. Then, We, the Intelligent Sapien developed technology to solve these problems. Today, we do not die from malnutrition as we have produced enough food on the planet ( still people are dying from malnutrition in poorer countries has to do with bad distribution, poverty and politics, but atleast there is no dearth of supply). We no longer suffer from cold in winter, or die from polio. Currently people are dying from covid-19, but then we are rapidly developing the vaccine as well. Hence, we can say that we have solved all the problems atleast for a comfortable living such food, clothing, shelter, education, communication and transportation.

So, what has happened is we do not have any incentive to work for betterment of others. Rather, all we do is just work to get more rich, and famous. The companies and factories which used to produce innovative solutions to make life better, are now either involved in just earning profits, buying back shares, or giving hefty bonuses to shareholders. Ofcourse there are exceptions like Elon Musk, but the bigger pie is simply occupied in looking after themselves. Few decades before, when all the above problems were not solved, the scientists, doctors and engineers used to work day and night to find a solution. Even common people used to find solutions to make things better and help others to uplift them as well. After all, the scientists and innovators did not come from any royal family, or rich business background. They were simple, poor people who just had a passion to solve a problem which bothered humanity, be it darkness, which was eradicated by invention of electric bulb, or a vaccine for polio.

But today, we see most of us have all the basic facilities needed to live life comfortably, and so we are slowly forgetting to help others, and solve problems. We have forgotten that the real purpose of humans is to be in service of humanity. Be it inventing something, or even as basic as volunteering for the weak and old, service keeps us busy and makes our life purposeful. That’s why those who are involved in serving humanity, never get depressed. Iconic personaliities like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, Charles Goodyear, Robert Goddard, and many more worked and served for making human life better. They never got depressed ( atleast not due to self obsession). So, lack of service and increase of narcissism has been one of the key factors in the rise of depression.

More to be continued….

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