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New report explains why so many of us are depressed, and how we can build a less depressing society

09 October 2020

The BPS launches its new report, ‘Understanding Depression’, a fresh look at why so many of us are depressed, and what can help.

Bringing together research from psychology and other disciplines, and with input from people who have experienced depression, it challenges the common assumption that it is always best thought of as an illness.

It is a human experience as individual and as complex as other human experiences like happiness or falling in love, and people experience it for as many different reasons.

The conditions we live in, how our lives compare to those of others, opportunities or lack of them, support or lack of it from those around us – all of these can play a central role.  

Gillian Bowden MBE, lead author of the report and a member of the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP), said:

“With the impact of Covid-19 on mental health, and of increasing inequality, this report feels more important than ever.

People experience depression for different reasons. There is no one simple explanation that applies in all cases, but we do know a lot about the different things that can play a role.

We hope this report can inform overdue conversations about how our environments and social circumstances affect psychological health.”

Esther Cohen-Tovee, Chair of the DCP said:

“Depression is often best understood as a response to adverse individual or wider community circumstances and experiences.

Understanding what makes an antidepressant society can help us build environments, communities and institutions which support people throughout their lives and enable everyone to thrive.”  

The report argues that to seriously tackle depression, we shouldn’t wait until people are in crisis and then offer them ‘treatment’ in health settings.

We should aim to build an ‘antidepressant society’,  addressing those factors - such as poverty, racism, inequality, unemployment and childhood stress and disadvantage - that we know can lead people to become depressed.

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