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Surviving America's Depression Epidemic

Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy - Bruce E. Levine

This book gives an insightful look into the cultural and societal factors contributing to depression. It defines depression as an unsuccessful attempt at complete shutdown so as to avoid emotional pain. According to the author, emotional pain is a normal part of human experience. However, it is not very accepted in our modern extreme consumerism society.  Also, the author claims usually whatever treatments the mental health industry throws at the problem only exacerbate it. In the case of drugs, he discusses the effects of big pharmaceutical companies, the real effectiveness of drugs and the placebo effect. In terms of talk therapy, he talks about the many dehumanizing aspects of the mental health profession today. He claims that what is needed for a person to heal is the right environment created by supportive people willing to listen and understand. However, he claims there isn't that much of that offered by therapists because they rather push prescriptions and quick fixes and usually ignore the real problems created by our culture or are active participants and exacerbate the problem.

 

One part I thought was really good is he claims people prone to depression simply see the problems in our society more clearly and are not as good at fitting in with the extreme consumerism mindset. He compares them to the canaries in mines who would fall, signalling that conditions in the mine are deteriorating and for the workers to get out. He states that we need to pay attention to what is bothering these sensitive individuals and that same problem is really affecting society in general and sooner or later will touch everyone.

 

I thought this book was incredibly insightful. I was surprised at the criticism aimed at the mental health industry but as someone who has studied psychology i can totally see what he is saying. The author has a very liberal viewpoint that gets extreme at times, like he says you have to cheat and steal or end up homeless or something along these lines and how bad he felt about taking money from his patients. Still, that only shows up a few times and the book overall doesn't dwell on politics too much.  Overall I thought the book was excellent and will make you think about our society and your role in it and can easily make you a better person for reading it and better able to handle yours and others' emotional pain.