The Great God of Depression

Nearly 30 years ago, the author William Styron outed himself in these pages as mentally ill.

.. why, he asked, were depressed people treated as pariahs?

A confession of mental illness might not seem like a big deal now, but it was back then. In the 1980s, “if you were depressed, it was a terrible dark secret that you hid from the world,” according to Andrew Solomon, a historian of mental illness and author of “The Noonday Demon.” “People with depression were seen as pathetic and even dangerous. You didn’t let them near your kids.”

.. Readers were electrified by Mr. Styron’s confession in part because he inhabited a storybook world of glamour. After his novel “Sophie’s Choice” was adapted into a blockbuster movie in 1982, Mr. Styron rocketed from mere literary success to Hollywood fame. Meryl Streep ..

.. Mr. Styron had never wanted to become “the guru of depression.” But after his article, he felt he had a duty to take on that role.

.. His famous memoir of depression, “Darkness Visible,” came out in October 1990.

.. Mr. Styron’s curiosity about his own mind, and his determination to use himself as a case study to understand a mysterious disease, that gave the book its political power. “Darkness Visible” demonstrated that patients could be the owners and describers of their mental disorders, upending centuries of medical tradition in which the mentally ill were discredited and shamed.

.. His book became required reading in some medical schools, where physicians were finally being trained to listen to their patients.

.. Mr. Styron also helped to popularize a new way of looking at the brain. In his telling, suicidal depression is a physical ailment, as unconnected to the patient’s moral character as cancer. The book includes a cursory discussion of the chemistry of the brain

.. In the 1990s, bookstores were crowded with mental-illness memoirs — Kay Redfield Jamison’s “An Unquiet Mind,” Susanna Kaysen’s “Girl, Interrupted” and Elizabeth Wurtzel’s “Prozac Nation,” to name a few. You read; you wrote; you survived.

.. When he revealed his history of depression, he inadvertently set a trap for himself. He became an icon of recovery. His widow, Rose Styron, told me that readers would call the house at all hours when they felt suicidal, and Mr. Styron would counsel them. He always took those calls, even when they woke him at 3 in the morning.

 

 

Here’s what psychologists say are 3 factors present in every suicide

“In every suicide there is ‘thwarted belongingness,’ where the person has lost a relationship that was significant,” Brickley said.

He said an example would be a teen who had four close friends and one pulled away.

The second thing that is present in every suicide is the belief that the person’s loved ones will be better off and suffer less pain if the victim dies rather than lives, Brickley said.

If a teen is consistently getting in trouble or getting bad grades, that teen might think his family would be better off without him.

The third factor is a mind-over-matter state that someone has to be in to actually take their own life.

“Someone has to physically be able to handle the method in which that person has chosen to die,” he said.

Separating children from their parents isn’t just immoral. It also threatens our national security.

The American Public Health Association wrote that the trauma from such separation could lead to alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, obesity and suicide. (While the White House says the policy will end for future migrants, it will still affect the thousands of children currently in custody.)

.. But even for those who believe immigration lawbreakers deserve punishment, there’s another argument against separating children from their families: national security. The government’s policy puts the United States at risk, in both the short and long term, by breeding a generation of children with psychological problems and a population elsewhere that reviles us. Traumatized children are prime recruits for extremist groups.

Their children and children’s children grow up in the shadow of, to use the language of 9,300 mental health experts, shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds.” As adults, these traumatized children are significantly more likely to have encounters with law enforcement.

.. An extensive body of literature documents how early childhood trauma creates cycles of violence that can destabilize whole nations.

.. most “deterrence” interventions, including jailing and family separation, actually triggered increased terrorist attacks.

.. In North America, the survivors of forced attendance in American Indian boarding schools have seen the effects reverberate for years. Scholars in Canada have drawn causal links between boarding school attendance (sometimes for children as young as 3) in the 1900s and elevated levels of depression, drug use and criminal behavior two generations later.

.. Native American women sent to boarding schools as girls were six times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts and had a 57 percent higher rate of alcoholism as adults.

.. A 2016 study of 15,587 adult children of incarcerated parents found that separating children from parents directly increased interactions with the criminal justice system, including drug abuse and gang affiliation.

.. Syrian children separated from their support systems are “more likely to become

  • the youngest laborers in the factory,
  • the youngest brides at the altar, and
  • the youngest soldiers in the trench.”

.. The individual suffering of older children is immediately consequential to our security because incarceration centers have become recruiting grounds for armed groups. Trump’s favorite boogeyman, the MS-13 gang from which so many Salvadorans fleewas founded in Los Angeles prisons. The United States is keenly aware that young people can be easily radicalized while imprisoned

.. We have seen the radicalization of incarcerated youths firsthand. One of us, Steven Leach, spent years working with South African juveniles awaiting trial. These youths did not all enter detention as organized criminals, but without exception, among those who worked with Leach, each left prison a member of the gang.

..  A similar problem emerged in the internment camps of the Anglo-Boer war, in which British soldiers detained civilians to deter guerrilla campaigns by Boer insurgents. Approximately 115,000 people were held in the camps between 1901 and 1902; 22,000 Afrikaner children died. More than a century later, that horror remains at the forefront of the Afrikaner imagination

.. He leverages lies to stoke fear here: “We don’t want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!

..Naturally, this feeds radical anti-American sentiment and promotes nationalism abroad when the U.S. is most in need of alliances to solve global problems.

.. There is now strong evidence that punitive deterrence strategies don’t work, no matter how burdensome they are.

.. punishments between 2000 and 2015 effectively reduced economic migration from Mexico but had negligible impact on the population the administration is targeting with its current policy: asylum seekers fleeing violence.

The report points out that there is no consequence worse than death and violence at home for these migrants.

.. If these are people we want as enemies, we had better be prepared for a multigenerational war.

The Gaza Violence: How Extremism Corrupts

As you know, everybody sees the Middle East through his or her own narrative. Conservatives see it through the “front line in the war on terror” narrative and defend Israel’s actions on the Gaza border fence this week. Progressives see it through the “continued colonialist oppression” narrative and condemn those actions.

.. sometime in the 1990s, a mental shift occurred. Extremism grew on the Israeli side, exemplified by the ultranationalist who murdered Rabin, but it exploded on the Palestinian side. Palestinian extremism took on many of the shapes recognizable in extremism everywhere.

.. First, the question shifted from “What to do?” to “Whom to blame?” The debates were less about how to take steps toward a livable future and more about who is responsible for the sins of the past.

.. Second, the dream of total victory became the only acceptable dream.

.. extremists stop trying to win partial victories, insisting that someday they will get everything they want — that someday the other side will magically disappear.

.. Third, extremists over time replace strategic thinking with theatrical thinking. Strategic thinking is about the relation of means to ends: How do we use what we have to get to where we want to go? Theatrical thinking is both more cynical and more messianic: How do we create a martyrdom performance that will show the world how oppressed we are?

.. If you read the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s April 30 speech or much of the commentary published over the past week, it’s clear that some powerful Palestinians now believe that the creation of the state of Israel is the wrong that needs to be addressed, not the expansion and occupation.

.. They rejected incrementalism. After Israel withdrew from its settlements in Gaza, the Palestinians could have declared a new opening, taking advantage of the influx of humanitarian aid. Instead, they elected Hamas, an organization that lists the extermination of the state of Israel as an existential goal. They expended resources that could have improved infrastructure to fund missiles and terrorist tunnels.

.. Yasir Arafat was once a terrorist, but at least he used terror to win practical concessions. The actions today — the knife attacks, the manipulation of protesters to rush the border fence — are of little military or strategic value. They are ventures in suicidal theater.

.. The shift from the politics of Rabin and Shimon Peres to that of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman is a move from pluralism to ethnocentrism, from relentless engagement to segregation. It’s a shift from tough realism to the magical thinking that Palestinians are somehow going to go away.

.. sometimes Israeli policies seem callously designed to guarantee an extremist response.

.. That’s the problem with extremism: It is a flight from reality. It makes you stupider. Instead of cleverly working to advance your own interest in a changing context, you end up shouting your own moral justifications into a whirlwind.

.. Extremism is naturally contagious. To fight it, whether at home or abroad, you have to answer the angry shout with the respectful offer. It feels unnatural. But it’s the only way.