The following three paragraphs are excerpted from an article entitled "We need new ways of treating depression", published today on Vox.
The entire article is very worth reading, but the points in this excerpt are key:
"I learned there is broad agreement among scientists that there are three kinds of causes of depression and anxiety, and all three play out, to differing degrees, in all depressed and anxious people. The causes are: biological (like your genes), psychological (how you think about yourself), and social (the wider ways in which we live together). Very few people dispute this. But when it comes to communicating with the public, and offering help, psychological solutions have been increasingly neglected, and environmental solutions have been almost totally ignored."
"Our focus on biology has led us to think of depression and anxiety as malfunctions in the individual’s brain or genes — a pathology that must be removed. But the scientists who study the social and psychological causes of these problems tend to see them differently. Far from being a malfunction, they see depression as partly or even largely a function, a necessary signal that our needs are not being met."
"Everyone knows that human beings have innate physical needs — for food, water, shelter, clean air. There is equally clear evidence that human beings have innate psychological needs: to belong, to have meaning and purpose in our lives, to feel we are valued, to feel we have a secure future. Our culture is getting less good at meeting those underlying needs for a large number of people — and this is one of the key drivers of the current epidemic of despair."
As far as I can identify or recall, I've been through two periods of depression in my adult life and, for whatever my experiences are worth, I strongly agree that psychological and social solutions are absolutely an important part of the recovery to good mental health.
Especially in light of recent high-profile suicides and the epidemic of mass shootings, the issue of mental health in our country is a critical one.
The public conversation around mental health must continue. Our quality of life -- and our very lives -- depend on it.