Thursday, 25 November 2021

Is depression about

our increased tendency to live apart from other people? 

I haven't read the article but there was a "teaser" on Twitter about an article in the Telegraph apparently saying that "anti-depressants" are not the answer for less severe cases of depression.

Freud was of the opinion that mild depression was a "normal" thing to experience. I also remember Anna Freud (his daughter) talking about her work at the Maudsley Hospital and saying something like "we expect children to be happy all of the time and of course they aren't". 

I know someone who suffers from severe depression, so severe it can hospitalise her and render her incapable of doing anything. I also know people who say, "She could snap out of it if she tried." No, she can't. Nobody wants to feel that overwhelming feeling of misery.

I have of course said all of this before but I have been more conscious of it recently. People in two of the eastern states have been coming out of lock down but the rate of "mental illness" is not decreasing. It is as if lock downs have made people more aware of their isolation - even when they live in what should be a supportive environment of family.

The Senior Cat says he is "lucky" because he has visitors - and of course Middle Cat and I each go in and out several times a week too. Even so I am aware that there are times when he feels "down". I also find it entirely understandable. He is at the end of his life and unable to do the things he once loved to do. He would still prefer to be in the garden and in his shed. Giving the Senior Cat an "anti-depressant" is not the answer. It wouldn't work. He needs visitors. He needs intellectual stimulation. He really needs to be "out" more.

Tomorrow my brother has to go back to his home in another state but he is determined to get the Senior Cat into the car today. Then the plan is to take the Senior Cat for a quiet prowl around some old haunts and get him talking about good things he remembers. Middle Cat and I will follow it up in conversation later. The Senior Cat is looking forward to this. His reaction was, "Yes! Could we go and look at.... and... and perhaps....? I'd like to know if they are still there and how they have changed if they are." He doesn't expect things to remain the same.

There are other people in the same residence as the Senior Cat who are given "happy pills" each morning. One woman still spends most of her day lying on her bed doing nothing. She is physically more than able to care for herself but she seems to live from one cigarette to the next - something she is only permitted to have outside and while a staff member is with her. She won't join in activities. It has taken months but now she will respond to me asking, "Hello M... " and then making some sort of neutral comment. She needs an entirely different sort of environment - one which is much more supportive and stimulating.

And there is A...  A... rarely speaks. He has had a stroke. It has affected his hearing and his balance. He spends most of his day reading. The staff rarely try to communicate with him. They simply don't know how to do it and they don't have the extra time it would require. He's depressed too. All too often I see him just staring into space. I hand over some reading matter every so often. We use gestures with each other but he needs one-to-one help with communication - and the staff need to be trained to understand whatever he learns to use.  It won't happen. There isn't time.

We have, wrongly, grown to expect that sort of thing in residences like that. Now it is happening more and more in the wider community and that worries me even more.  

Even if I am largely happy in my own company I know I need to mix with the community sometimes. If I don't then I will lose the capacity to do that thing which sets as apart from other animals - communicate by using words. We need to communicate - and we are losing some of the ability to do us because we are isolating ourselves without even knowing we are doing it.


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