Academic journal article The Journal of Baha'i Studies

Depression, Stigma, and the Soul

Academic journal article The Journal of Baha'i Studies

Depression, Stigma, and the Soul

Article excerpt

O my Lord, my Beloved, my Desire! Befriend me in my loneliness and accompany me in my exile. Remove my sorrow . . . Verily, Thou art the Gracious, the Generous.

-'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahai Prayers

INTRODUCTION

I have been a psychologist for most of my life. A number of years ago, a man I will call George came to see me and told me a story that was shocking but not unusual. George was thirty-two years old and had a good career, a wife, and a one-year-old child. He said that he had been suffering from major depression most of his life, but about a month before our visit he had finally lost hope of ever recovering. Although religious, he believed God would understand that the world would be better off without him. He was in such severe and unbearable emotional pain that he decided to take his own life. To this end, he began to carry through a plan he had been contemplating for many years-since adolescence, in fact. He bought a large supply of over-the-counter painkillers, sleeping pills, and other drugs, and he resolved to take them all at once.

When he got home, he sat down to write a goodbye note to his family, but at that moment, his wife returned early from work and interrupted his plan. She took him to the emergency room. He told the doctor his story, adding that those negative feelings from a few hours earlier had lessened while he had been sitting in the waiting room. He said that he loved his family and wanted to go home. The doctor took blood tests; did a chest X-ray; examined his heart, lungs, eyes, ears, nose, and throat; and pronounced, "OK, you can go home. There is really nothing wrong with you. The problem is all in your head!"

The world is full of people like George-men and women, children and teens, who suffer from major depression. According to the latest information from the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to their estimates, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18 percent between 2005 and 2015. Despite the fact that depression is treatable, nearly half of the people who suffer from it do not get the help they need and the figure is much lower in poorer, less developed countries (WHO n.p.).

"Depression: A Global Public Health Concern" reported results of the World Mental Health Survey, which was conducted in seventeen countries and found that on average, about one in twenty people report having had an episode of depression in the previous year (Marcus et al. 6). About one million people take their own lives each year. For every person who commits suicide, twenty more make an attempt (Marcus et al. 6).

The burden of depression is 50 percent higher for females worldwide across all income levels. One or two new mothers out of every ten will suffer from depression after childbirth. Depression limits the mother's ability to care for her child and therefore can seriously impact the child's growth and development (Marcus et al. 6).

According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), although more women than men are depressed, men are less likely to get help and more likely to commit suicide (1). Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States for all ages in 2014, and men took their own lives at nearly four times the rate of women, representing almost 78 percent of all suicides (1).

Depression typically starts at a young age, and depressed children and teens often go untreated. Lack of treatment has led to increasing suicide rates among the young. Suicide was the second leading cause of death in the age groups 10-14, 15-24, and 25-35 in 2014 (CDC 2).

Depression and other major mental illnesses affect not only those who suffer from them, but also their families, friends, coworkers, and community members. Often both the sufferers and those who care for them are at a loss about what to do. Even when urged to get help, many with mental health problems seem to resist. …

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