The ignorance of population awareness of depression appears to be subsiding. Increased media coverage of the condition, increasing prevalence and awareness in schools and academic institutions is helping to change public perception of the clinical condition. However the ability to understand more short term periods of depressed mood can sometimes be difficult for individuals demonstrating a lack of empathy and understanding. We’ve all been guilty.
I’d like to propose a concept of relativity and how maybe the severity of negative life events is less important than one may think when considering the effects on mood state. Perhaps it’s not the event itself that has the greatest influence on psychological effect, but rather the individuals previous experience of events.
Before continuing I’d like to stress that this is just a personal viewpoint, my opinion and for anybody else who agrees with me. I’m yet to analyse current literature on the subject as I feel when approaching this topic a subjective approach may be more appropriate, after all that’s the way in which the majority of individuals will generate their view when experiencing the subject in everyday life. Before I continue it’s important to acknowledge that I’m not arguing that severity of life events don’t matter, they do! This isn’t a blog referring to the classification of certain circumstances. I’m simply stating that perhaps relative change in what an individual has become accustomed to may have a greater effect on mood and possibly development of more long term conditions such as depression.
Anecdotally most individuals have experienced people who seem to deal with ‘things going wrong’ better than others. In fact you as a reader may well be that person who seems to ‘shrug everything off’. Due to the fact that depressed mood is a mental state many forget the potential training effects.
For example an individual who has had what many consider a hard life may be more accustomed to dealing with adverse circumstance, or difficulty. Whereas someone who has lived a relatively easy life may be less accustomed to adversity and may find difficult times well, more difficult. The experience of adversity in this case can be seen as a stimulus or stressor, presenting opportunity for adaptation and improvement, one may actually be trained in experiencing negative events. Thus making the individual more resistant to depressed mood.
Celebrity culture demonstrates this point extremely well in my opinion. Media outlets are forever publishing stories on celebrities who have had a rapid decline from what was a lavished and wealthy lifestyle and have thus experienced clear psychological effects. Perhaps suggesting an explanation for what appears to be increased prevalence of alcohol and drug misuse.
Now considering a morale argument, who are we to decide what constitutes worthy of lowered mood?! The recommendation to ‘get over it’ in many cases is an extremely ignorant viewpoint. A state of chronic depression or even acutely lowered mood must be considered in the same way any other condition, what is the effect on the individual? Not does the possible experiences that have led to this state constitute empathy or support. Whilst public perception is changing on mental conditions more can still be done to educate and understand.
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)