Is Being Depressed a Mental-Health Problem — Or a Sane Reaction to Insane Society?

Today I read yet another news article about how so many young people are suffering from depression and suicidal tendencies in response to the social isolation brought about by the pandemic.

Reading this really makes my blood boil. Of course, I hate that so many people — especially young people, who haven’t yet had a chance to experience many years of life — are in such distress. But even more than that, I hate seeing their distress labeled “depression” or “mental illness,” when what’s really going on (in my opinion) is that our young people are having a perfectly appropriate response to a deeply messed-up society.

Even before Covid, depression and anxiety were epidemic in young people (and in older ones for that matter). But instead of facing up to the root ills of society, we keep insisting on trying to fix the “troubled” people.

I think the so-called “troubled” people are actually really tuned-in. And when we numb them out with meds and diagnoses, and dumb them down with mindless entertainment and with so-called “education” that doesn’t really teach them how to think and act for themselves — that actually teaches them to distrust their feelings — it’s like we are disabling one of the “fire alarms” of our society.

We don’t want to disable the fire alarm to stop it from making that obnoxious noise so we can roll over and go back to sleep. We want to get to the root of the fire.

We need to be modeling resilience for our kids. We need to be modeling honesty, authenticity, integrity. Things are wrong with our society. At a time when we need to be using every last cubic micron of our brains to marshal up mad waves of quantum creativity, we are inventing … self-driving cars. Really??

We are spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and hours, a year on streaming entertainment services, yet we say we don’t have money or time to plant a garden, or go for walks with our families, meet our neighbors, tell our kids inspiring stories about courage and resilience, let them paint their rooms any color they want, look through old family photo albuns together, tell them stories about their ancestors (whoever of us in today’s world even know our ancestors anymore), teach them how to build things and write things and make their own science experiments.

I say “we” in a very general, least-common-denominator collective way; I know that here I am preaching to the choir. You guys get it.

What I want everyone to take away from this is that our work is important. Artists, homeschoolers, activists, tree-huggers, edge-walkers, eccentrics, weirdoes, hippies, kooks, advocates for unpopular but necessary causes. We need to help kids learn how to tap their creativity and imagination to meet their needs and find new ways of being in the world. Some of us are still in the process of learning how to do that ourselves. Still, the task of equipping our kids for life can’t wait.

We’re all students and teachers at the same time. Mother Earth is our homeschool planet. Outdoor activity of all kinds — interaction with nature, and with each other in outdoor settings — needs to be a top priority right this minute. For us adults as much as for kids. Disconnecting from nature is how we got ourselves and the planet into this mess in the first place.

Further Exploration:

• “Virus’s Toll on Mental Health — Doctors Describe Wave Among Adolescents” (G. Wayne Miller / The Providence Journal USA TODAY NETWORK; in Daytona Beach News-Journal): “the director of the Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Hasbro Children’s Hospital … has witnessed what he described … as ‘a massive pandemic of mentally ill adolescents’ … And when I say massive, I don’t want to understate this’ … He referred to a recent Friday ‘when I looked at the census of the hospital. Three-quarters of the hospitalwas adolescents who wanted to hurt themselves because of mental illness. … ‘We’ve been seeing significant depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms a lot,’ she said. ‘And a higher frequency of kids who are coming in because of suicide attempts –and very serious suicide attempts. … We’ve been seeing more irritability and aggression in the home. We’ve been seeing more psychosis as well.'”

Back-to-Nature Bootcamp — Nature: The Golden Ticket to Happy Kids Who Become Balanced Adults (from “Reconnecting Our Kids to Nature, March 1-5 @1pm MT. Remember when you were growing up … spending hours outside, playing in the dirt. No tablets or cell phones. It’s a different picture today, isn’t it? The truth is … kids need to be outside to grow up to be healthy and balanced. But it’s also true that in today’s fast paced world, it’s hard to find the time, patience, and energy to make it happen. In our Back to Nature Bootcamp, we help parents make a plan to get their kids back to the basics – back to nature and what childhood should be – all while practicing academics in the process. Easy strategies to ground your kids in this crazy, fast-paced world. Catapult your kid’s life to a happy & healthy adulthood using the power of nature. Give your kids the tools and support they need to reach their potential. Plan a week of academic nature activities in less than 10 minutes.” (This event sounds like just the ticket for helping kids, by addressing the “Nature Deficit Disorder” that is harming us all and is a root cause of our overall societal dysfunction.)

Getting Kids Outside & Learning About Nature — with Dr. Jenny: A Facebook group I just joined, at the invitation of a fellow permie. I suggest you check it out also! This group is how I found out about the “Back to Nature Bootcamp” described in the previous paragraph.