Many people wonder why there are so many depressed citizens in the United States? After all, this is supposed to be the most advanced country in the world. This is “the home of the free” where we all venture forth in “the pursuit of happiness”. So, why do so many of us struggle with depression and other mental health problems?
And what about us lucky souls who live in Santa Barbara = “Paradise”? How can we possibly be depressed while living in such a pleasant environment with a near perfect climate for human beings?
Several theories exist among mental health professionals regarding the growing problem of depressive mood disorders. Consider the following 5 theories:
1. Americans drop into economic hardship.
The size of the middle class has decreased rapidly and more people have descended into financial struggles and uncertainty. Wealth is not fairly distributed amongst our citizens. When people are unable to find jobs or meaningful work with reasonable compensation, they feel stuck, worthless and depressed. Often, they see no way out of their dour position. However, most people want to be financially self-reliant, independently take care of themselves and provide for their family members. This is a disappointing reality to face. We were promised more equality and a higher standard of living. Financial stress creates depressing self-esteem problems.
2. Americans reach adulthood.
As the American population grows more people reach adulthood. Thus, more people reach the age or season of life in which depression and anxiety are most common. Adults suffer with more depression per capita than children and adolescents.
3. American interpersonal relationships and community ties are weaker now than in past decades.
Anecdotally, we know that a high divorce rate, periodic residential relocation, an increasingly isolating tech boom, and a magnified global awareness contribute to feelings of alienation and decreased face-to-face interactions. Additionally, mastery of healthy relationships, community contribution and communication have declined. This results in a diminished sense of belonging, support, meaning and purpose in our daily lives. Moreover, loneliness, social isolation and low self-esteem promote depressive thinking and moods.
4. Americans are often motivated and focused on wealth, fame, and image.
Some research supports the idea that the value placed on consumerism, materialism, and self-promotion in recent decades is detrimental to mental health. Focusing on these values may be linked to dissatisfaction, disappointment and insecurity that fuel depression.
Despite the best intentions of parents, schools and the mental health community in recent years, emphasis on unrealistic self-positive affirmations are harmful. By focusing on thoughts like “you can be anything you want/dream/desire”, Americans are setting-up themselves and their children for disappointment. Unmet expectations of ourselves based on other’s distorted beliefs about our inner abilities and potential prove discouraging and depressing over time. If we fail to reach our promised potential, it is a very big let-down.
If you are depressed, it may not be your fault or a sign of weakness. And remember, you are not alone. You can feel better. Depression counseling is helpful for you and your loved ones.