Lately I have been researching the evidence behind inflammation as a cause of depression, because most people I saw in the student clinic this semester have been affected by depression and anxiety. So yesterday I found an article describing a new theory that not only reaffirms the inflammation as a causative factor, but also acknowledges the contributions of high stress in early life.
The authors state that "social threat" and high levels of adversity increase inflammation through the stress response, which then can initiate symptoms of depression such as low mood, inability to find pleasure and social withdrawal. While this is necessary when faced with acute physical stress (my teachers love to mention the example of a sabre-tooth tiger), any threat regardless of how imagined or non-physical it is can activate this same response.
Why did this jump out at me? Well it's because the mainstream media and many alternative sources just love to paint the illusion of an ever-worsening world. Whether it is to increase sales or to achieve social control through learned helplessness (probably both), I usually have to deliberately look for positive news that few journalists seem to care about. So was I surprised when I read this new theory? Am I surprised that mental health is an ever-increasing problem in this culture of pessimism? No! So maybe, besides increasing intake of anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, and nutrients such as essential fatty acids, helping to make a positive difference in the world and surrounding yourself with positive people could aid mental health. Especially if you already have a mental illness, you don't owe pessimists anything; just because many of them call themselves reeeeealiiiistiiiic doesn't mean you have to have anything to do with them in order to get taken seriously. They're health hazards, just like smokers. I deleted a couple of not-so-friends off of Facebook for this type of behaviour and I'm not sorry. Often I would rather be cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or building a Rajasthani girl's school from the ground up than listen to this variety of people. My health comes first. I also support Camfed, which is doing some amazing work in Africa to help girls get the education and careers they deserve (much better than a typical alternative of early marriage and seven children).
I shouldn't feel like I am rebelling against the dominant culture by supporting them, but I do.
It is time to change the conversation about mental health, which is currently all about pharmaceutical drugs, to one of not only diet but also our mainstream society and media.