What can help the causes of depression?

Depression. The very word has a feeling of doom, loneliness and misery associated with it, yet web searches suggest that it is a very common issue.


A bit of gentle research tells how depression can affect the mighty and the low (Winston Churchill, us and also myself). Further research offers a plethora of “self-help” suggestions, weighty tomes on clinical treatment and banal sayings i.e. just get over it, pull your socks up, St. John’s Wort and “It is a high-class problem”.

None of these sayings, I feel, offer anything useful to the person who is depressed and personal experience leads me to laugh at the weighty tomes. When we are depressed just existing is difficult enough and reading weighty tomes is beyond a reasonable expectation.

When the consequences of depression become severe enough e.g. not washing or eating, getting up, dressing, caring for our families, being able to work, then, we might go to see the GP. I am not about to decry the GP and certainly agree that they are a good way of getting help. But they are one of many ways of addressing depression. Certainly, the GP is someone who can prescribe medication and for a finite period of time, this can be useful.

In the area of medication and prescriptions for depression, I am very mindful of the research done by Johan Hari for his book Lost Connections - 2018. The time span for antidepressant effectiveness is quite limited and the amount of time the antidepressants are prescribed frequently exceeds this window of opportunity vastly.

 Accepting our depression/depressive episodes is a good way of beginning to deal with them but just a beginning. Here I am not talking about the chronic long-term sufferer specifically. Neither am I specifically talking about the teenage child who has just been disappointed. Both are experiencing (in my opinion) depression, of varying degrees, and accordingly, both have different methods of addressing the depression. Both of these examples speak to an aspect of depression which I feel is caused, to some degree, by society.

In the society we live in it is easy to be caught up in the cycle of always performing better, achieving more, being successful. These are goals which advertising and group attitudes can lead us to believe are how we measure our happiness. Happiness being the opposite of depression. But how accurate are they as measures? How do they feel to us? How do they relate to the person who is not able to achieve any or all of them? 

Is it realistic to believe we can always achieve more, outperform our best and increase our success (however that is defined)? I think not.

So we are left feeling depressed. The parent who is estranged from her family, the refugee, the person neglected today or in the past, the prisoner or the scapegoat are all familiar with depression. As is the redundant worker, the person unable to provide for their nearest and dearest, the person looking for work, love or freedom from their past.

Having described what I hope are examples it is easy for us to identify with, it feels proper to address some solutions. If we agree that depression is a symptom of less-than-ideal living, upbringing, treatment by others etc. then it seems to follow that medication, when it has passed its useful life, is a sticking plaster solution.

By this, I mean that medication does not address the causes of depression but merely provides a way of coping with life while we are depressed. Effective and necessary undoubtedly, but it still does not address the underlying causes of depression. The causes that can be individual and unique but also can be general and widespread.

Counsellors who are far more experienced than I and luminaries such as Carl Rogers and Gary Prouty have both evidenced the long-term effectiveness of counselling when dealing with depression. It makes me sad that the pharmaceutical model has gained dominance in this issue. Indeed a healthy person is difficult to make a profit from but a person with a long-term prescription for antidepressants is a proven way of making a profit. The mathematical/cost model is relatively easy to follow. One repeat prescription for one patient multiplied by many patients = multiple regular profits.

Looking at depression from the viewpoint that there is not a pill for every ill and also life is not an illness then a different (and proven) way of dealing with depressionfeels necessary. Such a way is already here but largely overlooked nowadays.

The parent bringing up children in substandard housing, the redundant breadwinner, the marginalised person, the scapegoat, the person with crippling low self-esteem, the unheard, the frustrated and the weary all seem to have an opportunity to change their depression when viewed from a non-pharmaceutical perspective.

The fact that the change can be brought about by themselves is powerful in itself. I am not suggesting that the counsellor could or should confront the Landlord, the ex-employer, the bully, the Society etc. Gosh - we are counsellors, not superbeings after all. However, the counsellor can provide room for expression of what is causing us to be depressed.

In PCT this can be where the client is able to be heard and their depression acknowledged. When this is possible then it follows that the client can look for solutions. Solutions unique to them and their circumstances. Should they want to, they can apply those solutions. If that is not something they want or are able to do then there is strength and healing that can come from just being able to describe and recognise their issues.

I would suggest that as Carl Rogers says when describing the wholly organismic person as being someone who can identify and adapt to circumstances and feelings in real-time, then that is where counselling can enable the client to arrive at. That concept coupled with the organismic tendency (a person will do what is necessary for them to survive in any circumstance and at any time) offers a way of dealing with depression that is proven, effective and without risk of harm to the client.

It is hard to overdose on counselling but not so hard to overdose on medication. Does anyone know of any long-term adverse physical effects from counselling? Other than perhaps earache and a numb backside?

If only there were more counsellors...

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Chelmsford CM1
Written by Steve Fayers, Counsellor / Therapist | Certified Trauma Therapist
Chelmsford CM1

I am a person, a counsellor, a parent, a flawed human being who has struggled with life. Struggled with addiction.
I would rather struggle than give in and accept a life that does not meet my needs and wants.
I am trying to be the best person I can be.
"I will not go quietly into that goodnight " (paraphrased Dylan Thomas)

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