To put a little context, I’ve been diagnosed with major depression by three different professionals, and dysthymia by a fourth.
It is a very real thing, and I’ve had some very dark times. However, I’m of the opinion that certain aspects of that could really have been mitigated by better social structures.
While a certain part of it is definitely chemical, insufficient socialization and a sense of purposelessness seem to be very strong forces in creating and maintaining the worse of the depressive states. Getting out and around more people, building acquaintances, if not even friendships, and just remembering why the hell I’m actually where I am in life, and why I got here… so, figuring out the things that actually drive me and have driven me… helped a lot more than any medication or therapy ever did.
And when I slip up on that, stuff gets worse.
Historically, I think that religion (and their associated communities) in the west, and extended family structures in the east, played an important role in providing both purpose and social structures to effectively mitigate a lot of the worst parts of pre-existing depression.
But, we’ve broken that in the US especially, pride ourselves on it, and then medicate to deal with it. I don’t think there’s any more or less depressed people than there ever were, percentage-wise, just that the severity of that depression is worse because we broke some essential social fabric along the lines.