Depression – social or chemical?

A recently-retired couple asked their doctor for a prescription for the husband; the wife said that her husband was depressed. After a lengthy consultation, the doctor advised them to sit by the sea, about 5 minutes away, as often as possible. He would not write a prescription. The claimed depression soon evaporated.

A young doctor had prescribed medication for clinical depression. A more experienced doctor, however, found no evidence of clinical depression. The younger doctor’s explanation was that the patient had told her that she felt sad from time to time. After losing 2 sons in succession and a pregnancy mid-term, who wouldn’t? She displayed great sadness on the dates of her losses; but then reverted to her normal happy family life.

Against these experiences, psychiatrists seem to have identified an increasing number of psychiatric maladies. The recommended treatment involves a pharmaceutical product, expected to control or treat a chemical imbalance in the brain.

According to an article “Blue by you” by Johann Hari in the ‘Good Weekend’ magazine of the Sydney Morning Herald of 3 Feb. 2018: In the US, “… if your baby dies at 10 am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01 am and start drugging you straight away.” The article also said “Between 65 and 80 per cent of people taking chemical anti-depressants become depressed again.” “There is a real effect – but, alas, for many users, it is not enough to lift them out of depression.”

The article quotes Dr. Joanne Cacciatore of Arizona State University thus: “… a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering; we don’t … “consider context.” “When you have a person with extreme human distress, we need to stop treating the symptoms.”

The author of the article ‘Blue by you’ states that “… human beings have natural psychological needs too – but, Australian society, and the wider Western world, is not meeting those needs for many of us, and that is the primary reason why depression and anxiety are soaring.” “There has been an explosion in loneliness.”

To that, social researcher Hugh Mackay adds “The biggest contribution is fragmentation.” “Humans are social animals. We need communities.”

Doctors in Cambodia told African psychiatrist Derek Summerfeld that “finding an anti-depressant didn’t mean finding a way to change your brain chemistry. It meant finding a way to solve the problem that was causing the depression in the first place.

Comparably, a doctor in London (Dr. Sam Everington) ‘prescribed’ participation in a group activity. It is a successful approach.

Johann Hari’s book is ‘Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and Anxiety – and the Real Solutions.’

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What of institutional religion?

What place is there for the major religions (within the posited framework of an autonomous nested mesh of destinies ranging from the personal to multiple collectives)?

Divested of the detritus of dogma deliberately designed to distinguish each sect or faith from the others, and then to enable a claim of an unwarranted theological superiority, and thereby an exclusive path to heaven, two core beliefs are shared by these religions, except Buddhism. First is a claim of a creator god. The second is that, since humans are the products of this creation, we are bonded to one another.

What a wonderful concept. It is a great pity that it seems to apply only within the boundaries of each religious sect. The others are outsiders, heretics, heathens, etc. and are therefore not going to be ‘saved.’ Thus, in the name of their god, each priesthood is likely to display or even preach prejudice towards those not under its control or influence.

There will, of course, be great exceptions – priests within each religion who are truly ecumenical (accepting related sects within their religion as non-competitive), or who are freethinkers in their tolerance, even accepting other religions as comparable paths to the one God of mankind. I have enjoyed conversing with some of these enlightened exceptions.

What of those who quite impertinently suggested that my soul would remain doomed if I did not convert to their sect? My riposte to such soul gatherers is as follows: ‘When you ascend to the Celestial Abode of the Heavenly Father, you will find yourself shaking hands with Caluthumpians and members of all the other religions.’ Regrettably, some ‘wannabe’ saviours seemed discomfited by such a vision; I have watched a few dash down the road with displeasure after receiving my good news! I wonder how the atheists react on entry to this Abode.

Is it not true that institutional religion has pitted followers of one religion against another, and sect against sect within many religions, butchering fellow humans and defiling them in every way in the name of their faith? Under the pap propagated by their spin-doctors, it is carnivore-eat-carnivore, that is, dog-eat-dog! This situation continues.

The true measure of the quality of a civilisation is the way the least viable of the people are treated. This criterion, in my view, also applies to religions. On this test, the major religions, if not all of them, fail. The life chances, the quality of life, of those at the bottom of the socio-economic pile are generally ignored by their co-religionists in power, in government. It is a great pity that it was the communist nations which provided some uplift to their peasants, lifting them from their squalor. Our only hope is the secular nation, which subordinates saving the soul to filling an empty belly.

Would it not be wonderful if individual humans were able to seek succour from their god or spirits or whatever, without being caught up within an institutional religion with all its divisive binding rules, regulations and practices, as well as its priesthood; that is, without an intermediary? This is not to deny that there are many who derive some peace of mind through their priests. From observation, the two main groups in Australia are the elderly and the newly converted (mainly East Asians). This peace of mind, if associated with sectarian prejudice, may not however be the best ticket for entry to Heaven.

Yet, the real need by the majority of humans to have some hope of alleviating their suffering as they strive merely to exist, to survive, to protect their families (especially their young), cannot be denied. However, how could they accept that their prayers, their entreaties, are in vain; and that they need to work through their personal destinies in each life? Do not the alleged interventions by some kind god, or the claimed miracles brought about by saints, offer (blind) hope? Should the purveyors of this hope, the middlemen, most of whom live well and in security, therefore be tolerated? If so, at what price?

Yet, I will make it clear that I am not denigrating the kindness of most of those I refer to as middlemen. I continue to deal with them. They are worthy of respect. They have chosen to help their church-attending flocks as best they can, but within the closed framework of their dogma, and the well-trodden paths of tradition.

(The above are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

 

An octogenarian’s thoughts about religion (Part 2)

In Part 1, I made the following claims: That the major religions are equal in their potential; that the Hindu faith is more attractive for me because it is most comprehensive (because it offers a view of mankind’s place in the Cosmos, as well as a cosmology involving cycles of existence each of 3.11 trillion years); and that, and while our prayers may take diverse forms, we all pray for the same reasons.

I now highlight yet another, and most significant, feature of religions. The following extract is from Chapter 16 of ‘Destiny Will Out’, my first memoir.

“All religions guide us in our relationships with fellow humans. This ethical component draws upon a belief in a Creator (and this was not denied by the Buddha) and, as we are all bound to the Creator, we are bonded to one another. In intent, then, the ethical component of all religions of faiths is the same. Those religionists who argue to the contrary may well be placing themselves and their powers over us; I distrust the integrity of such people. This is not to deny the equivalence of the humanist perspective to the core ethics of the spiritually religious.”

Ignoring the reality that the ethical imperative is ignored by greedy individuals, as well as by those who are politically driven (possibly implying that their claimed religious faith is a facade), without an ethical code shared by those of us who believe that we are co-created by God, we may be compared with lesser members of the kingdom of fauna, the animal kingdom.

 

An octogenarian’s thoughts about religion (Part 1)

“When I fell out of the boat taking me to a career and lost my family, my self-respect, and faith in my abilities, I gave away my god (and everybody else’s). Struggling in rough and strange waters, I had time to think.

The first non-textbook I read when I settled down to academic study, strangely enough, was about Abraham (a nostalgic look at a past-life period?). Reading laterally, I then covered the belief systems of some early societies. I read about the nature of religious belief, and about the major religions. I came across a simple and very useful framework for examining religions, which I used some years later when I was on a school board.

When I came to enjoy the bliss of my own family, I recovered my faith in a Creator – logic (yes, logic) took me to this position. Reflecting (perhaps) the experiences of my formative years (and what I was taught) and drawing upon my reading, I realised that all faiths are beneficial and equal; one would have to be brainwashed or an egomaniac to claim that one faith was somehow superior to the others.

While I continue to hold this view, I prefer the Hindu philosophy because it is more comprehensive in its explanatory scope and yet, at its core, quite simple. It took me many years to reach this position.

All religions offer a devotional component. We all pray, in different ways, but for the same reasons. Some of us are a little bit more selfish at times than others. The forms of prayer vary, but their intent is the same. Is one form better, more effective, or better liked than God? If you do not like the way I pray, you probably do not like the way I look.”

(The above is an extract from my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out’ Chapter 16)

The ‘motherhood penalty’

Wonder of wonders! A mere male (Matt Wade) wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 Feb. 2018 about the gender inequality of earnings of the majority of women “who are faced with the lion’s share of childcare responsibilities” (National Bureau of Economic Research). However, the Bureau also stated “Even with ‘perfectly equal pay for equal work’ there would still be large gender inequality in earnings as equal work is not an option for the majority of women …”

Wade also wrote ‘Another reason the motherhood penalty is so entrenched is the enduring potency of the “male bread winner” model, where fathers are the primary breadwinners and mothers the secondary earners or full-time carers. That pattern has been surprisingly resilient.’ He quotes an academic thus. “We are becoming more traditional in our views around childcare and the role of mothers … Australians are still quite conservative in those kinds of views.”

Surprise! Surprise! Unless focused on her career, or in need of more money, would not a mother want/need to be in touch with the baby she produced (almost all by herself)? Would not her baby want/need to be in touch with her as much as possible, as Nature has deemed? Until a child enters childcare facilities at (say) 4 years of age, would not the child want to be near mum (possibly accompanied by then by a sibling or two)?

f motherhood imposes a penalty, why bother to produce a child? No one else (apart from the partner) is involved in such a decision; certainly not the taxpayer.

What seems to have been deficient in writings about parenting, motherhood, and relative responsibilities in the care of children – over many years in Australia – is concern about the psychological needs of babies and children with (full-time) working mothers, and in split or blended families. If there has been objective writing on the needs of little children, why are they not flagged in the media?

Talk of the ‘penalty’ of motherhood is fatuous. Or, is this the new feminism, even as espoused by a mere male?

The value of opinions

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.” (Bill Bullard, quoted by Rev. Dr. Stephanie Dowrick, in the Sydney Morning Herald of 5 Feb. 2018)

Bah! Balderdash and poppycock! What about human rights, especially individual rights, the pillar on which teeters the whole of Western civilisation? Do we not live in a democracy? Do I not have the right to dislike a person – and for no reason other than the fact that I do not like that person – and to express it? Will I not suffer were I to be denied the right to express my feelings publicly?

Yes, yes, yes! I am adequately aware that my suffering may be ameliorated by pharmaceutical condiments available from psychiatrists and the like. But, that is suppression. My opinion shall not be fettered. I am sure there a UN Convention which endorses my right to express my opinion.

Anyway, who would want to live in another’s world? There may be dragons there!

(Thank you Bill and Stephanie)

 

The wonder of past-life memories (2)

I do believe that where (geographically) one is born, and the family and culture into which one is born, have significance. Chance, in my view, is not a determinant. For instance, I already ‘know’ that I will be re-born as a constituent member of another culture. There have been many strange intimations in my life which lead me to this conclusion.

As for my birth in this life into a Hindu religio-cultural milieu, my acculturation made me initially religious; later spiritual, as I was guided by the Upanishads. My on-going reading about religion then led me to realise that all the main religions are equal in their potential, and I became a free-thinker. Growing up in a multicultural nation-in-the-making also helped to form this perspective.

Without a prescriptive Good Book, Hinduism encourages free thinkers to explore the Cosmos ideationally and spiritually. No authority structures abound. In my experience, the priests do not tell us what to do; they facilitate our reaching out to God – by praying to one or more of the manifestations of God available to us. Insightful commentators are the lamp-lighters of this religion. The many tributaries of Hinduism lead ultimately to the end we all seek.

I visualise these tributaries of spiritual insight flowing into that Ocean of Consciousness from which we are said to have arisen.

I do believe that being born into a Hindu milieu in this life, after having been a Muslim, is part of my destiny path through Earthly existence. What next? The path of Confucius?