According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression cannot be cured. In fact, reading about depression on their website is pretty depressing . As someone who has struggled with both PTSD and Depression for a long time (two diseases that go along pretty well together) without (thankfully) any substance abuse to go along with it, I can speak pretty eloquently about the scourge of depression.
Nonetheless, before we can speak about a cure for depression we have to understand what it is. It would appear as if a lot of different diseases all get combined together and given the label of depression. Our understanding of mental health is so limited that it is unclear to scientists and mental health professionals (who seem to double as sorcerers and witch doctors giving bogus chemicals to try to fix the brain as well as magic rituals to provide ‘treatment’). The fact that many health plans do not cover mental health despite (or maybe because of) the extremely high frequency of depression among the general population only complicates matters.
So, let us try to disentangle the various roots of depression. Often depression is connected with other diseases, as in my own case, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In this case there is an objective event of a horrifying and traumatic nature (violence and sexual abuse, for example). When these two diseases are combined, it is fairly likely that the the PTSD is the result of the trauma overwhelming the normal defenses of a person and that depression follows because of the inability of the mind to avoid being “stuck in the rut” after the trauma.
We might wonder if some people are more sensitive than others by nature, or prone to be more negative and pessimistic by nature, but some traumas (like rape, physical attacks, or other forms of abuse) are sufficiently objectively traumatic events that they would overwhelm the defenses of even fairly strong people. We might therefore note that depression is an objective and fairly straightforward response to abuse, and that limiting the incidence of depression might be best tacked by limiting the scourge of child abuse, given that the numbers of abuse victims and those who suffer from major depression during their lives is fairly closely related. Prevention is the best cure, and we might say that reducing (or eliminating) such abuse would be way to eliminate depression at one of its most powerful roots.
Other problems, like substance abuse and sexual abuse, also often accompany depression. But since correlations does not prove causation, we ought to note that these ought to be lagging indicators of self-medication. Often drug use (especially alcohol abuse) as well as abuse of sexuality spring from a poor self-image (especially common given the sexual abuse that often precedes depression). Self medication in an attempt to obliterate trauma or to work it out through sexual experimentation often, tragically, furthers and deepens the cycle of depression, either through leaving one open to further trauma, by tampering with the way the brain works and making it dependent on a substance or a sexual ‘high’ for normal functionality, or through a furtherance of depression due to the loss of jobs, relationships, and functionality as dependence worsens. Clearly, such acute problems must be tackled before the root ones can be dealt with, but neither can we forget that substance abuse usually serves as the cover of deeper problems and that tackling the alcoholism is only the first in a very long step of treatments and cures.
Let us note in addition that a wide variety of events, while not necessarily traumatic in nature, can lead to acute depression, just as the loss of a job, the death of a family member, marriage, or even the birth of a child or a move to a new city. Change is unsettling and uncomfortable, and often leads to depression as a result of our attempts to ruminate and understand the absurdity of life, whether objectively good or bad. We might also note that those who have deeper underlying problems (see above) would be expected to have more trouble with life’s routine absurdities than those who have had a fairly positive life with a lifetime of strong mental health.
With this said, let us turn to the question of whether depression can be cured. A $30 million grant may help somewhat in the cure for depression, as scientists seek to restore neural pathways that are disrupted by depression , which may be a physiological result of the mental processes that get stuck in depression, such as obsessive negative rumination, where the brain just keeps on playing the same bad tape of traumatic or negative events, getting trapped in a box with no way out. Clearly, the large amount of deaths due to suicide is a signifiant boost to efforts to seek to prevent and cure depression, despite the pessimism of the drug pushers currently in charge of the mental health establishment.
It is the rather off-putting negativity that led one depression researcher and theorist to make a public challenge to NIMH concerning their depressive account of how depression can only be treated and not cured . We might understand that those who gain money out of the existence of a problem as extensive as depression might not want depression to be cured because of their reliance on the problem for funding, and we might understand that dealing with problems like alcoholism might lead some to be unnecessarily pessimistic about depression, but that does not mean that a challenge is any less warranted.
A reasonable cure for depression would tackle multiple elements of the problem of depression at the same time. For example, it would allow a way for those who are particularly sensitive or particularly burdened by a lifetime of trauma to find a way out of the rabbit warren of negativity. In addition, it would also allow for improved mental health without chemical dependency and its side effects in the attempt to drug a mind into sanity. Also, it would allow for some prevention of future episodes of depression by improving the thought processes to avoid unnecessary truama (often induced by self-medication) and helpful strategies to overcome life’s normal (and abnormal) events that we have no control over. Ideally, we might be able to start limiting the incidence of depression in the first place by cutting off the generational pathways by which abusive behaviors are copied generation after generation (including sexual abuse and substance abuse) by which depression becomes embedded in large populations. By breaking the cycle we start to eradicate chronic depression in the first place.
This may seem a tall order, but it is quite a reasonable goal when the alternative seems to be a pessimistic acceptance of depression and a desire to profit off of those who struggle against it by forcing them on psychoactive drugs, even while we try to avoid having those who struggle with depression self-medicate on (illegal) drugs and alcohol. Which is better–trying to medicate depression and farm the problem for rents (steady profits over a lifetime) or trying to greatly reduce or eliminate the problem by attacking it at the source. Let the reader decide which opinion they prefer.