The news about depression is – well, depressing. According to the most recent information, major depression is on the rise, and that spike is particularly acute among teens and young adults. Meanwhile, a new CDC report shows that suicide is at a twenty year high, having jumped more than 25% across America since 1999. In more than half the states, that rate has increased 30%; in my home state of Pennsylvania, it’s up 34%.
These numbers are not acceptable, they are not healthy, and they are not sustainable. The ugly truth is that we live in a world that seems broken, and we have an obligation to repair it.
Before we can do that, however, we have to ask ourselves this very important question: Why? Why are rates of depression and suicide spiking like this? There are a lot of people smarter than me who have given there reasons, and those are incorporated into my post below.
Please note my usual disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, scientist or researcher. I have some evidence in some of these cases, but by and large, this is all just a gut feeling.
1) The world is more interconnected, and we know how terrible some things are
As this article perfectly demonstrates, the world is more connected than ever before. There are 2.5 billion smartphones in the world. Half of all adults on the planet have access to these devices that can instantaneously connect us with anyone, anywhere, or give us access to news in any corner of the globe.
Ahh, let’s look through our phones, shall we? Check out Twitter. Oh, I see the President is yelling at ::insert race-based insult here::. Right, what else? Thousands of children who are being separated from their parents and may never see them again. Super. What else? Hmm, border patrol is randomly asking people for their papers. Lovely.
Oh, and that’s just America, and that’s just today.
It’s difficult to look at the news and not be depressed, and feel an overwhelming sense of doom. If you are lucky enough to live a life of relative comfort, how do you avoid an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame? My kids are currently sitting on the couch, eating a healthy breakfast and playing a game for the Nintendo Switch I got them yesterday. Thousands of children in America – asylum seekers who fled their homes – will never see their parents again. How do you deal with that guilt? That disconnect?
The world may not, really, be getting worse. But thanks to the availability of information and news, it sure does feel like it is.
2) Technology and social media are bad replacements for real connections
Yes, My favorite topic: Writing about how technology is killing us all.
Seriously, as I have discussed previously, the increasing prevalence of technology and social media are poor replacements for the real connection that we all need and crave. How many times have you turned to the comfort of the soft blue light of the device in your pocket, only to come up empty when it didn’t fill a gap in your heart? In this fantastic article in The Atlantic, Jean Twenge persuasively argues that social media and technology is making our generation less comfortable and more depressed. I completely agree, and I think – and hope – that we realize this more and more in the years to come.
3) We’re busier and feeling the pressure of life more
Of the three causes that I’ve written about, this is arguably the one least supported by the evidence and most supported by a gut feeling. But, if you’re reading this now, I suspect you know exactly what I am talking about, because you feel it too: The pressure. Today, I must go here. I must do this. I must pay the bills. I must make sure that my perfect children remain perfect, walk 10,000 steps, eat all of the right foods, tweet something good, oh, God, the house is a mess, and have I eaten any trans-fats today? CRAP.
You know what I mean here. The pace of life seems to be caught in a constant phase of acceleration. There’s no down time. No rest. And that, combined with the pressure of the real world, leads to more broken minds.
I don’t know – I could completely off here, but I would genuinely love to hear your thoughts. Where do you think I am right? Where am I wrong? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!