Depression is not just a brain chemical imbalance. Brain chemical imbalance is one of the symptoms, not the cause. Depression is caused by imbalance on various systemic levels, from body-mind inner system imbalance to societal system imbalance. Here, I would like to list two systemic issues I have observed over the past few years.
Caregivers in the United States are very LONELY (whether it’s a mother, burned out by balancing work and toddlers, or a man, exhausted by taking care of wife and father who are suffering from illness). Such loneliness and exhaustion are one of the contributing force to various depression (and anxiety) symptoms.
As a Taiwanese living in the US, I want to say: Caregivers in the US could be lonelier than the in-home-caregivers from Philippines or Indonesia in Taiwan. At least, in Taiwan, with high population density every morning, in each city park, you will see many of them brought the elders/babies under their care to the park, then, they formed their own chatting circles. But, even in Taiwan, many foreign caregivers ran away from their jobs, because it is similar to a form of solitary confinement. As in-home-caregivers, they are too isolated without receiving enough emotional nurturing.
Taking care of babies/toddlers, people with illness, or elders who are just as vulnerable as babies (yet could be harder to deal with) requires tremendous amount of emotional and physical energy. If a society cannot recognize and respect the value of caregiving, people in different ages will suffer.
What limited Taiwan to develop more institutional caregiving system to elders is the “misunderstood” traditional Chinese values. What factor is limiting the US? This is a question beyond me. Yet I came across this interesting article by an American who lived in Norway for 4 years altering being a report in Afghanistan.
The above article is also related to the second systemic issue I have observed: many Americans are overwhelmed at work. I appreciate and respect good work ethics, yet, being absorbed and consumed by work is making American society paying a huge invisible cost. Not only the individual’s mental and physical health is compromised, the foundation of democracy is eroded. People have limited energy to care about public affairs.
When organized force is reduced, the individuals become even more vulnerable and are often more stressed out at work. For example, therapists in independent practice don’t have much counter-force to negotiate with all the insurance giants. Even therapists could suffer from the work-related stress, then, if there are other internal and external stressors, therapists could also be hit with depression or anxiety.
Copyright: Chia-Chi (Alicia) Hu, Ph.D.