Friday, April 7, 2017

Outrunning depression.

Great piece by Kim McLarin on depression, race and all manner of interconnection.


Some highlights for me:

On "mental illness" as a white category which alienates communities of colour:
Mental illness, mental disorder of any possible stripe, was definitely white folks’ mess. White people had nervous breakdowns; black folks just got tired of shit. White people had anxiety, black folks had nerves. Black folks got the blues sometimes, but only white people got clinically depressed. White people listened to Prozac. Black folks listened to their mother, their pastor, and God.
Some stats:
In 2014, an estimated 15.7 million adults (6.7 percent of the adult population) experienced at least one major depressive episode, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. A major depressive episode is defined as a period of two weeks or longer during which a person experiences depression, loss of interest or pleasure in everyday life, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning: sleeplessness or excessive sleeping, loss of appetite, or problems with energy, concentration or self-image. (An important note: the NIMH did not make exclusions for depression caused by bereavement, substance abuse, or medical illness.) 
Women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime, says the CDC. On the bright side, depression among women improves after age 60, which is not true of men. 
Not surprisingly, people living below the poverty level are more than twice as likely to experience depression as those living at or above the poverty line.
An estimated 92 percent of African-American men with depression do not seek help, according to the CDC. Which makes it reasonable to consider the statistics off.
On what we know and highlighting how much we don't know:
I try to meditate. Psychological research, including a 2014 JAMA Internal Medicine analysis of forty-seven studies, suggests that meditation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can be moderately effective in treating depression and perhaps more so at preventing relapse. Then again, psychological research (a 2015 meta-analysis published in the journal Science) suggests that 60 percent of psychological research is, essentially, crap.
On the fear of sad people, and the reminders present in the melancholia of others:
The deep American suspicion of melancholy and its contents is connected to the deep American suspicion of intellect, of complexity of thought and perspective, of wakefulness.
On writers, creatives and depression:
Not all writers are tortured geniuses. I know many stable writers, levelheaded and content, writers who don’t drink or take drugs or require antidepressants, writers who use, without irony, words like “optimist.”
Still, there’s no denying some subtle connection between creativity and mental anguish. Several studies have confirmed the link (Andresen, 1987; Jamison, 1989; Ludwig, 1995) even if they fail to explain it. The largest study to date to examine the connection was conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. That study found that creative types, writers in particular, were overrepresented among people with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety syndrome, and substance abuse problems. Writers were also almost twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population.
Are we sensitive, thus we need to express creatively or is our need to look at things and think deeply, responsible for our melancholia?
The great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa famously said, “To be an artist means never to avert one’s eyes.” How much toll does it take to not look away? Ecclesiastes says: “And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.”
On "molecular residue":
But there’s even more than that. I am fascinated by (what I can understand of) the exploding field of behavioral epigenetics, which posits that the experiences of our recent ancestors leave molecular residue which adheres to their DNA— and therefore to ours. In other words, not just physical but psychological and even behavioral tendencies really can be inherited. If your grandmother or even your great-grandmother struggled with depression because she escaped from the Holocaust, or narrowly avoided a massacre in My Lai, or was enslaved and raped repeatedly or watched her father being lynched—or was simply neglected and unloved during childhood—it matters to you and in you. Whether you know it or not.
I gotta admit, when I was in my late teens and early 20's I  had this foreboding reoccurring thought that my sadness was karma. I must have been a terrible, monstrous shit in another life. Like researching philosophy and religion, it was an attempt at explaining why I felt the way I felt.

Read the entirety of McLarin's piece of you can.

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