You do look glum! What you need, is a gramme of soma
3rd February 2012
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If we could, wouldn’t we all take a long well deserved trip to “the warm, the richly coloured, and the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday”? For those not acquainted with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, “Soma” the all-purpose, happy drug regularly taken by the majority of the characters in the novel is described as endowing the user with "all the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; and none of their defects.” The reason I ask this question is because it appeared to echo the conclusion of Geoff Watt’s two part programme on depression which was recently broadcasted on the BBC World Service programme Discovery. The programme, using scientific research discusses the paths of different individuals and looks at new methods for dealing with depression. The accompanying article to the programme (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16749565) suggested that those that undergo great stress or trauma but do not get depressed are resilient. So what do people need that undergo great stress and trauma and do get depressed? A resilience pill! This solution did not sit well with me for a number of reasons which I shall attempt to discuss in this article. In 2011 a survey conducted by WHO World Mental Health Survey Initiative found that 15% of the population from high-income countries were likely to get depression over their lifetime compared with a rate of 11% from low and middle-income countries. Assuming that the low and middle-income countries did not beat us in the UK by 4% because they are all high on resilience pills it seems a contradiction that we are presented with this solution, to develop a pill “tailored to our brain activity or chemistry.” Surely the focus should be on the positive aspects of life in low middle-income countries whose populations haven’t had their brain chemistry meddled with. Although it is remarkable to hear that the science of depression has left the days of lobotomy and anti-depressants behind I do think there are crucial triggers of depression that this blasé one size fits all approach excludes. It does not deal with the external factors that can cause depression for example bereavement, divorce, illness, redundancy and job or money worries, would we still be human if we didn’t allow ourselves to react naturally to these stressful and traumatic events? This solution may well be the answer for some but there are still prescription issues, who would take the pill? When? And how often?
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