‘The cow was an antidepressant’


Recently, I was having dinner with a few people. We didn’t know each other all that well, in fact one I had just met that day. As we shared a meal and some drinks, at some point the subject of mental health came up.

Even not knowing each other well, we were all being open about our struggles with depression or anxiety, sharing experiences and discussing the stigma around it. It was a very authentic experience, and one that I think doesn’t happen often enough.

It reminded me of a podcast that I had recently listened to. The author Johann Hari had gone on Sam Harris’ “Making Sense” podcast to discuss his books Chasing the Scream, which deals with addiction, and Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions. You can find that podcast here.

Hari shared a story in that podcast, so when I began reading an article on Vox with a similar story, it caught my attention – and then I realized the author of the article was Hari.

He tells of a psychiatrist researching the psychological effects of unexploded land mines on people in Cambodia – around the time antidepressants were first being marketed there – and how the community approached depression after a worker lost a leg in a land mine explosion. (The title of this blog post comes from the story.)

Read “We need new ways of treating depression” on Vox.

Hari discusses studies on antidepressants, “social prescribing,” economics, and much more. It is a very interesting read.

From the article:

I learned there is broad agreement among scientists that there are three kinds of causes of depression and anxiety, and all three play out, to differing degrees, in all depressed and anxious people. The causes are: biological (like your genes), psychological (how you think about yourself), and social (the wider ways in which we live together). Very few people dispute this. But when it comes to communicating with the public, and offering help, psychological solutions have been increasingly neglected, and environmental solutions have been almost totally ignored.

There are a lot of interesting things to examine in that Vox piece. I haven’t read Hari’s books yet, but I plan to get Lost Connections at some point. (I’m way behind on my reading… currently – slowly – going through about three books as I get time.)

One book I did finally finish is related to this post though, and I’ve shared it with a few friends as well – The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb. Korb is a neuroscientist, and the book’s subtitle is “Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time.”

Thanks for reading.

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