Depression and anxiety: Have we got it wrong?

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Author Johann Hari says society is both the cause and cure for depression and anxiety.

For 13 years, British author Johann Hari says he took the maximum possible dose of antidepressants. In Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Cause of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions, Hari draws from his personal experience to challenge how depression and anxiety are understood in society, particularly in the West.

“There are plenty of people who were, like me, taking chemical antidepressants and they didn’t help,” says Hari. “This isn’t an argument for or against chemical antidepressants, it’s an argument for expanding what we think of as an antidepressant.”

Spending more time in nature, enjoying work and building lasting relationships are some of the cultural and societal solutions Hari says need to be considered as part of treatment for depression and anxiety.\

“Nobody denies that there are social and psychological causes of depression and anxiety,” says Hari, “but that has not informed most of how we respond to these problems.”

“I think part of the cruellest thing we’ve done is, we’ve put the onus for solving this problem onto depressed and anxious people,” says Hari.

“We don’t do that with other problems. We don’t say the problem with car crashes have to be solved by people who’ve already been mangled in a car accident, right? We have seatbelts, and speed limits, and airbags, and we arrest DUIs. In a similar way, because this is primarily a social crisis, we need social solutions.”

In an UpFront special interview, we ask Johann Hari about his book challenging how depression and anxiety are understood and what alternatives need to be considered.

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