A Depression-Inducing Society
The way our society functions in the modern day can present us with a range of external contributing factors that impact our mental health – often beyond our control. The message here is not that the odds are hopelessly stacked against us, but that our vulnerability to anxiety and depression is not our fault.
Here are some of the ways in which our society could be considered ‘depression-inducing’:
Consumerism and Materialist Culture
Whether we realise it or not, we are constantly fed the false idea through media and advertising that happiness, satisfaction and contentment in life can be bought. This can drive us to (unhelpfully) pin all our hopes and dreams on material goods and wealth – the disappointment and dissatisfaction that often arises from this are exactly the sort of thing that depression thrives on.
Comparing ourselves against the seemingly perfect and enviable lifestyles of those we see while scrolling through our Facebook or Instagram feeds can leave us feeling empty, inferior, and generally rubbish about our own lives, allowing depression a foothold. This links strongly to the unhelpful thinking habits of ‘mental filtering’ (as we can often forget the equally wonderful things about our own lives as we succumb to jealousy towards others’) and ‘compare and despair’.
Aside from simply not looking at our social media profiles, one thing to help combat this unhelpful habit is to remember that what we see of other people’s lives on social media is merely the best 1% or so – it does not show the mundane or even difficult aspects of their lives that make them just as human as the rest of us!
Another side effect of social media in our modern-day society is the potential isolation from real people. While the internet can be great for maintaining contact with people we might otherwise struggle to stay in touch with, the tendency to communicate remotely with others can really distance us from the finer elements of human interaction, including body language, the sound of someone’s voice, or even a simple hug, all of which can have a profound impact on our mood and wider mental health in the longer term.
Social media can also provide a platform for cyberbullying, in all its numerous forms, which can prove deeply traumatic for the victim, and potentially have long term impacts on their mental health and welbeing.
In our increasingly media-driven society, we are constantly swamped with the unattainable perfection and superstar lifestyles of the celebrities we are made to compare ourselves against on an almost daily basis. The resulting feelings of inferiority can infiltrate into the way we think about our lifestyles, wealth, physical appearance, even our personalities, and are a major building block for the depressed thinking habits that can damage our mental health.
In a world of lawsuits, insurance claims and fines, it is easy (and not uncommon) to feel a persistent sense of anxiety at the hands of our modern-day blame culture, and it is understandable that this can, over time, begin to take its toll on our mental health. It can lead to the depressed thinking habits of ‘all or nothing thinking’, ‘intolerance to uncertainty’, and ‘self-blame’.
The Happy Trap
In our society, we are fed the idea that we should be ‘happy’ all the time; however, our definition of what it actually really means to be ‘happy’ can be somewhat superficial. We are led to believe that we must be doing something wrong with our lives if we ever experience pain, distress, or other difficult feelings, which in reality are just as much an integral part of the rich tapestry of a full, content life as pleasure. By fighting these difficult feelings, we can often start to feel guilt or frustration – feeling bad for feeling bad, which ironically only makes us feel even worse, creating a vicious spiral down into depression.
Stigma and Attitudes
A lot of stigma still exists in our society around mental health, as we continue to over-value the virtues of being ‘strong’ and ‘independent’, while neglecting the importance of accepting our entirely human limitations and asking for help when needed.
A society in which phrases like “man up” and “get a grip” are still used so flippantly, and that still believes in the (false) idea that anyone with a seemingly good quality of life should automatically be happy and depression-free, could certainly be considered ‘depression-inducing’, and we should never be made to blame ourselves for these external contributing factors.
Of course, there are so many positive aspects to our society as well – what is the point of highlighting how society might contribute to depression in this way?
For one, highlighting the impact of these social factors should act as a reminder that struggles with our mental health are not our fault.
Additionally, awareness leads to choice: we can critically evaluate the effect of these social factors and hopefully be better-equipped to consciously distance ourselves from the culture and stigma that damages our mental health.