Capitalism is just depressing

July 22, 2011
Depression can come from social factors such as loneliness, lack of social support, financial strain, lack of purpose and unempl

There is no denying it, depression is on the rise across the world. The World Health Organisation says depression will be the second largest contributor to the global burden of disease by 2020. For young people this is already the case. Depression leads to about 850,000 deaths every year.

But why is depression on the rise? In some instances it is a product of more readily available methods of diagnosis and public understanding of the disorder. But increases in suicide rates and other indicators suggest that the increase in depression is well beyond this statistical readjustment.

Depression is not always caused by a chemical imbalance or as a result of human biology. It is a result of social factors such as loneliness, lack of social support, financial strain, lack of purpose and unemployment. These are endemic under capitalism.

Even in a wealthy country like Australia, youth often look to a future that is at best unfulfilling. Furthermore, capitalism is based on competition. In all sorts of ways we can only succeed if someone else fails. Obvious examples are job interviews or exams to get into uni.

Capitalist culture emphasises competition and individualism. Even the main form of transport — cars — means being physically separated from, and often in competition with, other people travelling on the same road.

Loneliness and lack of social support stem from capitalism’s drive to alienate us from each other.

As a result of this alienation of people from their community, those suffering social isolation are unable to find a way out. They continue with the things the way they are and everything gets worse, leading to feelings of depression.

In Venezuela, rates of suicide dropped steadily from the year 2000, according to World Health Organisation figures, to 3.8 in every 100,000, at a time it was rising globally.

A factor in this is the socially engaging character of the Venezuela's popular revolution.

For example, the communal council’s that organise local communities to govern themselves are playing a role in empowering citizens. They provide the funding needed for programs to run in communities that improve lives. These programs include education missions, sports clubs, cultural groups and neighborhood associations.

Along with alienating people from their community, capitalism alienates people from the products of their labour. Workers have no control over the products they produce, and no say in how they complete their work.

The consumers of these products often have very little need for the objects they buy — advertising (and a culture based on consumerism) creates artificial desires and profits are made from junk.

This lack of control over production by anyone outside of the capitalist class — reducing work to blindly following orders — means a large part of people’s time, energy, creativity and skill is, in effect, stolen.

For many young people, work means a depressing, dead-end job and little prospect of anything different in the future.

Compare this with worker-controlled workplaces.

In these workplaces, workers control what is being produced. They are able to decide democratically with their co-workers how they go about their work and do not work just to produce wealth for the boss.

In Venezuela, there are experiments in models of workers' control, though it is still limited.

This model of worker and community control is aimed at socially useful production and social cohesion. In worker-run workplaces there is no lack of purpose due to pointless labour.

Financial strain and unemployment come from the constant drive of capitalists to maximise their profit. Workers’ wages and jobs are cut but workplaces are expected to increase their output. The cost of living goes up faster than wages.

There is no such thing as job security under capitalism. Its need for profit means people need to worry about their livelihood, which can lead them to stress and depression.

On the other hand, in Cuba, being able to work is seen as a basic right. Most workers are employed by the state and all people are provided with what they need, including housing, food, education and health care. All jobs are secure and there is no need to work at a productivity level that is beyond the average person.

Before the Cuban Revolution, suicide was rising, but from 1959 until the early 1970s it decreased, Cuban Institute of Legal Medicine figures show.

However, economic problems caused by the crippling embargo that the US has imposed on the island since the revolution led to the suicide rate increasing again. Since then, the implementation of mental health programs has meant that the suicide rate has again begun to drop.

Capitalism creates depression. During the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency (1981-89) in the US, suicide rates in young people climbed dramatically. This increase can be matched with increased unemployment, which reached 11.4% in 1983 according to US Bureau of Labor statistics.

Along with unemployment, the neoliberal assault since then has increased alienation from communities, lack of purpose in workplaces and insecurity in jobs. With no way in the current model to take control of their work and lives, people are sinking into the pits of depression at an alarming rate.

How does capitalism respond to the epidemic of depression? The answer is pharmaceutical.

Antidepressants are being given to people with mild or moderate depression without first offering information on the side effects.

The Child Trauma Academy in Houston said if doctors prescribed antidepressants more responsibly, the rate of prescriptions in children would drop by 90%. But pharmaceutical companies try to maximise their profits by treating symptoms rather than curing illnesses at the expense of people they claim to help.

The trend to treat everyone who is upset as depressed is fuelled by clever marketing from pharmaceutical companies.

The profits that can be made from these drugs are huge. Antidepressants are one of the highest selling drugs in the world.

By contrast, is preventative medicine is a form of treatment that targets the cause not the symptoms.

Preventative medicine addresses the social, chemical or lifestyle causes of an illness. In this model, instead of handing out medicines to treat how someone is feeling, they are helped to fix the cause of their depression. This model decreases reliance on harmful medication and truly helps someone with depression. It has been used in Cuba for many years and is being implemented in the Barrio Adentro health-care mission in Venezuela.

A sinister aspect of over-prescription of antidepressants is the acceptance of the world as it is. By prescribing patients who are feeling down with these drugs without adequately investigating the causes of peoples’ unhappiness, the medical profession is, in effect, saying “there is nothing wrong with your world, it’s all in your head”.

Studies by the Al-Aqsa University found that in Gaza, 90% of people suffer from some form of mental illness. However, considering that Gaza is an overcrowded, walled community under violent siege, regularly bombed, periodically invaded, where Israeli surveillance drones continually buzzing around is part of normal reality, it could be are argued that it’s those without feelings of depression, anxiety or paranoia who have mental issues.

The world won’t be better just because medication makes it feel better.

Depression is a complex illness and capitalism is making its prevalence far worse. When people unite to struggle for a humane, rational society, they are treating the source of this disorder.


How wonderful to see the truth being spoken here, that harmful chemicals given to sad people turn the world into a drug-frenzy. We operate a ministry at to help people off drugs, and the hardest difficulty we have is helping them see that drugs are not the answer to the normal sadnesses of life.
Perhaps the editor should remove the above comment regarding The group is a Christian fundamentalist sect.
Mark, I think it could be worth a look at the teachings of Bill Hicks in regards to drugs... I also think you are mislead regarding Cuba, I spent 8 weeks there a few years ago and was shocked to discover an absolute totalitarian state. In Havana there's an armed cop on every corner (and their not there to make you feel safe), discrimination against Afro Cubans is rampant, people are scared to openly talk to foreigners for fear of reprisals. Whilst there the relative short time I was, I witnessed several times the corruption of state officials extorting locals whom I had befriended. Across the country there is a general mood of hopelessness and despondency which is impossible not to notice and has nothing to do with the US embargo. Your thesis is interesting but you draw such a long bow with little qualifications little to no critical analysis, the article comes across a bit like a poster on a Justin Biebler fan site claiming him to be the best musician in the world.
"In Havana there's an armed cop on every corner". Anybody who's actually been to Cuba (which i have) or even knows anything beyond what the US govt says can tell you're full of shit just by that one statement alone.
Havana is crawling with cops, I don't know how you could possibly not notice that, the only thing that seems to out number them are the European sex tourists having the time of their lives and Mariachis that follow them around. In an eastern town I spent time with a family group that had one of its young men in prison, hed been picked up of the street with a number of other young men, arrested and taken away and was supposedly awaiting trial, he had been gone over a year. In that time the family had had little to no contact with him. The "charge" I was told (interestingly in the context of the above article) was being "unemployed" (everyone in this town was unemployed) vagrancy may well have been more accurate a translation. The real reason, was because he had dreads and was a rasta as was the rest of the family who as result all suffered from ongoing routine local govt harassment and blackmail. At dinner one night, I was forced to flee my hotel over a back fence with a crappy old tape deck and a bunch of Bob Marley tapes and a bag full of assorted nic nacs. My hosts had been tipped off that one of there neighbors had reported them for having a foreigner in the house and they could expect an imminent "inspection". I was devastated that these good people had to subject themselves to this kind of humiliation on account of entertaining me. These kinds of incidents were repeated through out my trip through Cuba. I think you should scratch below the surface and read beyond "what the Cuban government says" With any luck the Arab spring, presuming its been published which is a big presumption given the strict control of the limited media there will motivate the Cuban people to stand up to the ruling elite and find a better future for themselves.
Hi, recently while visiting my home town I saw your stand and I purchased the edition "Jail Murdoch not Assange". I've worked in the Australian and o.s. media for 20 years and for the last four have worked as a video journalist for News Limited's I'm perplexed by your cover, "wiki leaks vs News Ltd" given that The Australian and other News Limited print outlets gave vast amount of coverage of Mr Assange's opinions and predicament. Also, who I work for, gave extensive coverage of Mr Assange and his statements and views. Look at, The Punch, The Australian, The Daily Telegraph - they do not have the same audience or tone. There is not one mandate that some evil empire is trying to put across. In fact your people selling your Green Left Weekly seemed amazed to know that News Limited has a "1Degree of change" see an environmental commitment to keep News Limited carbon neutral. That's the only mantra I've been encouraged to follow. Your people had zero knowledge of the fact that News Ltd employees are paid to take days off to assist with community greening projects, we have staff push-bike incentives, indigenous connections and mentorship programs, Green Awards etc. It's my observation that your publication seems to be hell-bent on keeping readers alarmed and afraid rather than looking at the facts in a calm manner. Regards, Helen Parker
Possibly things have changed in Cuba since you were there...assuming you´re being truthful about your experiences. I spent a couple of weeks in Cuba in May this year. For the first week I stayed with a Cuban family in a "Casa Particular" (a private home that rents rooms to tourists). The people there, and others that I met in Cuba, were quite happy to talk about the situation there and were often critical of certain aspects of Cuban society. But there was also pride in the achievements of the revolution such as free education and healthcare. There certainly weren´t armed cops on every corner; there were cops around but I certainly didn´t feel unsafe. The main annoyance I had were the number of people trying to get money out of tourists. But I think that´s because Cuba is still a relatively poor country - and the main reason for that is the US blockade which can only be seen as the US punishing Cuba for daring to stand up to US imperialism. If you want to see improvements in Cuba, then start demanding that your government (I'm assuming you´re American - apologies if I´m wrong) lift the blockade. If you´re not prepared to do that, your alleged sympathy with the Cuban people is just more hypocritical pro-American bullshit.
I went to Cuba looking for a political paradise, and found an authoritarian state wrapped in nostalgia for its inception. It was admittedly over ten years ago that I was there, and I really do hope the country has changed but I seriously doubt it. Castro and his cronies have locked the country in a sad late 50s time warp (we thought Howard was bad), there is no revolution and the place is politically stagnant. Castro and now his brother (the transferal of power to his brother being positively feudal) have ruled Cuba for over 50 years I repeat 50 years!!! Yet Cuba is still a poor country with its citizens lacking basic civil rights that we take for granted. It is lazy and dangerous to just blame the embargo for this. the education and health systems are achievements particularly the emphasis on preventative medicine in the face of shortages, but really these are basic responsibilities of any government and again 50 years, as a note I met a lot of doctors selling lobsters. The health care one receives if your well connected in Havana is a world away from the heath care one receives if your not well connected anywhere else in the country. Im not American (a little presumptive I must say) and I don't support the embargo if any thing I believe the embargo has been of great political aid in the propping up of the regime.
Hi Anonymous I have read that Bill Hicks was a great American comedian, who was a prolific drug taker. The US Socialist Worker published an article extolling his value as an anti-establishment comic. I’m surprised to see his comedy referred to as “teachings”. It’s terribly sad that you went to Cuba with such high expectations and found them dashed. However, your generalised statements about Cuba aren’t warranted. I have been to Cuba, too, and in Havana there is not an armed cop on every corner. Maybe there was during the Special Period, when you went. But they are not there now. You witnessed official corruption, which is reprehensible. The loudest voices against corruption in Cuba are the leadership of the Communist Party. Corruption has been publicly identified as a major problem for the country. Where does corruption come from in a socialist society? According to Trotsky’s analysis of what went wrong in the Soviet Union, it comes from scarcity. It creates the need for a bureaucracy to distribute the scarce goods. Bureaucracy undermines democracy and leads to corruption. The US embargo is deliberately designed to foster those conditions, in an attempt to undermine the Revolution from within. The “mood of hopelessness and despondency” you encountered has everything to do with the embargo. You accuse Mark of stretching a long bow with “little to no critical analysis” while you state baldly that the embargo is a “great political aid in the propping up of the regime”. To put it mildly, your statement is foolish. Nothing and nobody in Cuba is helped by the embargo. Did you seriously meet anybody who benefited from it? Or did you see people squirming to survive the difficulties, some exhibiting the highest standards of socialist virtue, some selling out and many others somewhere in the middle? According to you the Cuban Revolution has achieved health and education outcomes that “any government” could. That is a perfectly true statement, yet it reveals a level of ignorance in you that is shameful. What other government has achieved anything like Cuba in “50 years” (as you keep emphasising)? Cuba is “stagnant”, you say. How could a “stagnant” society achieve anything similar? Is Australia dynamic in your eyes? How does Australia compare in these areas? You wanted “a political paradise” in Cuba and you found a complex society with pluses, minuses, challenges and victories, in which ordinary people complain, argue and behave like human beings while surviving terrible deprivations and frustrations. As a socialist, all I can offer you, Anonymous, is an apology. Best not to stray too close to revolutions in the future, all you’ll find is human beings having a go at improving their societies. Perhaps stay at home and imbibe some of the Bill Hicks’ “teachings”. Barry Healy
Hi Helen, I have read your comment that you have posted in GLW, and I do have a few issues with it. First of all, you are claiming that the tone posted in GLW indicates an existance of an evil empire, however, most of the 'fear' to which I read in newspapers tend to come from more mainstream publications like the Daily Telegragh and the Australian. For example, I read an editorial piece recently that claimed that Climate Scientists who protested about having death threats should suck it up (so to speak), and focused more upon the indication that these scientists called those who disagreed with their opinions 'bogans'. It described these 'bogans' as 'discerning individuals who had exercised their ability to choose' and that these scientist were upset because they chose the differently to what the scientists liked. Ive managed to read some of the emails from these discerning individuals. Some of them were nothing more than mindless insults and name calling, however, some also included threats to their safety and property. Generally, most GLW readers that I know dont so much equate the press with the evil empire as such, but as using the media in a manner to manipulate a view rather than to publish the news (which, in many cases, is alarming - by very definition). I also would like to congratulate you for notifying GLW readers of the 1 degree of change website. After perusing it, however, I found that the information, although useful, has been circulating around by many people for a long time. I dare say that the people who wish to use these initiative already practice them, and that there are significant areas of the population that, quite frankly, really dont care. I remember telling my parents about most of what was on this website as a teenager (im now in my 40's). It does bring a small amount of sorrow that information that is distributed to 'the masses' hasn't seemed to have progressed, despite an increasing need for further initiatives. I would have liked to have seen more in regards to how ideas to increase renewable sources of energy could be influencial to determine future government policy (e,g. Ways to influence a bill to ensure mandatory installation of solar cells on the rooftops for all new dwelling as part of initial construction - as opposed to a voluntary decision by future owners (yes, to use a 'back up' electricity source at the times when this may be insufficient - although part of this plan would have to include some sort of redundancy prevention)). It is also good to see that some incentives have been initiated by your workplace in regards to your work place practices, but I would not want your employers to rest on their laurels, but to further encourage what other industries need to do so that such practices can be wide spread (im sure that some ideas wouldn't impinge upon the 'bottom line' too much...). Back to my initial comment thou, and that I would like to see the media outlets that you have named to use finger pointing much less and concentrate more on reporting UNbiased data from all sides of an issue. This is something which has been sorely lacking in these papers for many years and has enabled me to become more fearful of the words that are written in the papers you appear to be championing than the words that are printed in GLW. Regards, Rod Wenink
Very nice post, Im looking for the US Social worker article you mention...could you PLEASE send it to me? or give some info about it... to put it as bibliography on a researh. THANK YOU! =)

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