Garth George: Life's enough to depress anyone

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So subsidised prescriptions for antidepressants have jumped by nearly 40 per cent over the past six years in the Bay of Plenty.

Who's surprised that figures from the Government's drug-buying agency, Pharmac, show 70,000 prescriptions were issued in the Bay of Plenty District Health Board area last year, up from 51,000 in 2006?

Or that nationally anti-depressant prescription rates have jumped by a similar amount. Last year, 1,376,000 subsidised prescriptions were issued, 37 per cent more than in 2006.

No doubt a huge number of people in this country suffer from what is commonly called ``depression''.

And I'll bet there are far more than 1.376 million prescriptions handed out when you take into account other sorts of tranquillisers and mood-changing drugs that some doctors hand out like lollies.

Then there are the millions spent on alcohol, and all the illicit drugs we swallow, sniff, inject or smoke in a forlorn attempt to make life seem the way we want it.

That's much easier than accepting life as it is and, if we don't like it, doing something _ probably painful _ about fixing it.

Considering the sort of lives many of us live it's not surprising that depression is so common.

I suspect little of it is caused by chemical imbalances in the body.

Most of it will be simply a chronic dose of the blues, brought on by the pressures of a world that seems to insist the only measure of success is to have lots of money and the prestige that goes with it.

It's a world that tells us the bodies God gave us are not good enough and need to be modified one way or another to conform to an ideal paraded by the advertising and entertainment industries.

So some pump their bodies full of steroids, silicone or Botox _ all of which can have serious, even fatal, side-effects _ and others get hooked by bulimia, anorexia nervosa, alcoholism, overeating, sex, gambling, work, drug dependency or become fitness freaks.

Anxiety is just under the surface and erupts with monotonous, if brief, regularity. If it's not global warming, earthquakes, the price of food and petrol, leaky homes, unemployment or selling state assets, it's an ever-present fear we will lose what we have or won't get what we want.

We live in a society in which there is a growing sense of powerlessness as government, national and local, rides roughshod over our wishes. Public opinion seems to count for less while national and local politicians behave more dictatorially.

Is it any wonder so many live in a constant state of unhappiness, which doctors and others in the ``helping'' professions are only too quick to label depression? And to throw a pill at. Or to direct some counselling at.

Abraham Lincoln had it sussed. ``Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.''

The failure to deal with depression _ except by treating the symptoms with pills and/or ``counselling'' _ is quite plain: it is a condition that affects men and women not just in mind and body, but in spirit.

Science can assist the body with medicines and the mind with psychology, but it can't heal a malaise of the spirit. In an age in which God is seen by so many to be a historical fiction, and by a lot more to be of no account even if he exists, men and women who suffer from depression have no place to turn.

I know, because I've been there.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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