The two top killers in the 21st century are cancer and mental disorders. Among psychiatric disorders, depression is the most common.
According to reports from health organisations worldwide, almost 150 million people have been clinically diagnosed with depression since the 1970s. Within the next 50 years, another projected 8 billion people will suffer from depression-related illnesses. Nations will be hard pressed to swallow the bill for the massive amounts of medication needed to counteract the illness.
Further examination of the subject brings up a division between depression linked to heredity and cases linked to diet or hormonal imbalances. There might be a plethora of causes, but what is certain is that once a person develops tendencies, depression will directly affect their lifestyle, including sleep patterns and emotional, physical and psychological well-being. Family members will become strained in providing support.
If the condition is caused by diet or unhealthy lifestyle choices, there is a positive prognosis for recovery. It is worth checking whether the depressed person has a deficiency in certain amino acids or a severe lack in iron, magnesium, potassium, etc. Fluctuations in the testerone levels of older men can sometimes lead to temporary depression. Females are susceptible to depression during puberty, their menstrual cycle or after giving birth. Women going through menopause, which could last up to 10 years, deserve particular attention as they are exposed to a high risk of onset during this period.
Are drugs absolutely necessary to treat depression? Statistically, only 10% of depressed patients experience improvements with medication. In some cases, the harmful effects or complications caused by drug treatment can be even more troubling than the depression itself.
In truth, psychological disorders are not so terrifying. The diagnosis of depression, panic disorder, manic depression or any mental disease and the ensuant anxiety is actually far more damaging to the patient. Studies of personality traits and behavioural patterns shows that most mental patients are perfectionist and timid. They are overly self-critical and persnickety while giving too much consideration to the criticism and opinions of others. Overcome by feelings of failure or inadequacy, they are preoccupied with how others view them and the possibility of failure or loss. This makes them easily demoralised or unable to recover from even minor setbacks in daily life. Many similarly unhealthy habits and personality traits that have been formed in our early life will eventually develop into depression.
Buddhist householder Pangyun upheld the philosophy of “if the mind is unmoving, it is just as well to be surrounded by all things.” In the face of all circumstances and even obstacles, ideally we would be able to cope with them as they arise and leave not a single trace on our mind once they pass. This would mean that we are in complete control of our mind, as it would remain unperturbed by any circumstance. We should try to put all afflictions and tribulations to rest by viewing them in neither a positive nor a negative light. Emotional afflictions are borne out of a preconception, built up in the moment’s thoughts, and carried over by afterthoughts. This cycle can take a toll on our appetite and we might even lose sleep over it.
We should avoid forming attachment or being obsessively meticulous, thereby driving ourselves into a mental cul-de-sac. It is crucial to stop further complicating our train of thoughts and let the mind take breaks. Do not mull over the past and let bygones be bygones - good or bad, applause or derision. Terminate all desires and the mind will always be in a state of unfettered ease; regardless of whatever passes, it stays intact and unaffected as if nothing has happened.
When we can truly understand the empty nature (i.e. impermanence) of all things, their significance will cease. When situations arise, if only we can take precautions, think rationally, let go, shed unnecessary encumbrances and maintain a well-adjusted, level-headed and even buoyant mindset, then we can avoid psychological barriers such as gloomy pessimism and negativity and all that comes with it.