Down In The Lucky Country

7 05 2013

This is something that I typed over my recent ‘study’ break from uni. I don’t know how I am going to pitch the idea to get the go ahead to submit it. I am 99.999% sure it will be deemed too ofensive and subjective to be published, but to hell with regulations I say. After one of my posts here last year caused a bit of a stir, I’m kind of expecting a similar thing with this. But bring it on I say; even though I don’t have pictures here, I do on a thumb drive at home somewhere. I hope you enjoy reading it and you take something out of it at the end.

R U OK? Well, are you?

I don’t know anyone who has ever had depression, but I do know someone who told me that they had ‘depression’. They claimed that they had depression “for over a year now, and was avoiding all human contact. Ask Dallas or Jaiden”. This coming from a person, who only a few short weeks earlier, told me that they held backyard parties at their place every fortnight or so. Their Facebook page also showed that they were out clubbing on a regular basis. Not to mention their graduation from high school about 4 months prior.

Factor in their recent holiday to Queensland and taking up of a second job and it’s quite clear that they had ‘depression’ and were ‘avoiding all human contact’. To add to this, they claimed that due to this ‘depression’ they were not able to be held accountable for anything that they may have said or done;thus dodging apologising for offending my deceased grandfather.

Before this occurred a few years back, I was aware of depression, but wasn’t exactly informed about it. The extent of my knowledge was that it could occur to anyone at any time.

But I became curious as to whether or not depression led to unaccountability for your actions, so I contacted Professor David Horgan. He told me that this person was not above normal people due to their ‘condition’ and that they are accountable for what they have done and that depression is not a cause of lying, so I had every right to be upset with them.

Even though I was smug with this small victory, I still did research into the condition.

Did you know that depression affects about one in seven people in Australia? To put that into perspective, that’s 3 million people. 3 million, that’s a big number. Now consider that these numbers are just based on those who were brave enough to seek help.

In Australia, the stereotypical mentality that we all have is one of ‘she’ll be right mate’, especially among men. This is a long held belief that may not be as relevant nowadays, but imagine if it still is, because the rate of depression in men is nearly a third lower than in women. I’m not saying these figures are inaccurate, but just think about it for a moment.

Those of us who are fortunate to live in our own home have little reason to be depressed compared to others, but that doesn’t mean it can’t occur. While individual circumstances (your football team losing the grand final) may cause momentary depression, it is usually a combination of things that leads to what is called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). So the passing of a family member, the failing of a major exam/important interview and significant damage to personal property in the space of a short time framemay lead to extended periods of depression.

Depression is not a new thing though. It is not something that is just associated with the 20th century and the possession of material objects (though it could be argued that these things have increased its prevalence). In ancient Greece, Empedocles (490-430 BC) developed the humoral theory, based on what he regarded as the four basic elements and each was characterised by a quality and a corresponding body humor. These humors were blood, phlegm and black and yellow bile. Disease was said to be caused by an imbalance in these humors and the cure was to administer a drug with an opposite quality to the one(s) out of balance.Seems logical.

However, modern science has no known cure for depression, meaning that Empedocles theory was just that; a theory. Everything sounds good in theory. In theory, the Hindenburg was a good idea. In practise though…..

Dr Steve Ilardi argues that the brain mistakenly interprets the pain of depression as an infection. Thinking that isolation is needed, it sends messages to the sufferer to “crawl into a hole and wait for it all to go away”. This can be disastrous because what depressed people really need is the opposite: more human contact. One cause of depression might be what is colloquially referred to as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). And what gave rise to this? Facebook and other social media.

With the ability to upload and share photos at any time from (almost) any place, there is no such thing as a night out with ‘just a few’ friends without upsetting someone anymore. The internet hides no secrets, so word will get around; and fast. It has always been possible to exclude people from group activities, but now it’s not as easy. Especially if someone other than yourself uploads photos without thinking.

This is why ‘ignorance is bliss’ and ‘what I don’t know won’t kill me’. Or is it? These days it’s just assumed that people, especially school age and university students particularly, have Facebook. I haven’t had a ‘normally’ functioning account (long story) for nearly a year now, and if I’m honest, it has been awesome. I haven’t had to worry about signing in and responding to, let alone riffling through, all the crap that people post.

As a result of this ‘not being connected’ though(I still have a mobile, an email and a twitter account) I’ve noticed some people have stopped talking to me for no fathomable reason. This is only annoying because the people who do keep in touch suddenly forget things about you. For example, I went right though High School without a Facebook account and people knew when my birthday was. But this year they didn’t. Why? “Because you’re not on Facebook, nobody knows anything about you”.

Really? Is this what the world has come too? Or is Facebook just becoming a tool for sifting out who you do and don’t want to be associated with. Most people fill in their details honestly on Facebook without giving it a second thought, but with Facebookhas come a new wave of ‘stalkers’. We can now sit at home and find out about people who we think we may know.

This can be both a blessing and a curse. Struggling to find a birthday gift for someone? Just check out what pages they have ‘liked’. Or, conversely, see what pages they’ve ‘liked’ and find out what they are really into and what their views of the world are.

But if you do the latter, how do you act the next time you see them? Do you act as if you’re none the wiser about them from your last encounter? Or do you let them know what you’ve found out? Maybe this is why anxiety rates and depression among teenagers is on the rise. With all this additional information on people, could it be that what is being found out is becoming harder and harder to digest?

Furthermore, 34% of people in a healthy weight range feel that they are overweight. So how would they feel every time they log in to see a skimpily clad ‘selfie’ of someone with more than 50 ‘likes’? It’s surprisingly easy to find loads of pictures of this nature on Facebook as there are pages dedicated to the things.

But stories about people and their appearance are not just constrained to the online world. Just recently, three men in Saudi Arabia were ejected from the country after being deemed ‘so good looking that the local women might fall for them’. Imagine how this must make someone who is already riddled with self-doubt feel. Not to mention all the modelling competitions that take place around the world.

It might even come back on the parents who are unaware of what they are doing. We’ve all heard the story that starts, “Back in my day, we never…”, and usually contains the line “But nothing” somewhere.  With a natural desire to impress parents, children can find it hard to conform to expectations. “My father always contradicts himself”, says Isaac*. “One minute he’s like ‘why don’t you let your hair grow a bit?’ The next he’ll be ‘so when are you getting a hair cut?’ And it’s not even that long”.

So maybe I was wrong. Maybe that person had anxiety for some reason but thought they had depression and never sought help. Maybe, just maybe, I owe them an apology after all.

*Name withheld

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