15 to 25 percent of company employees report that they feel stressed out by their work. Major depressive disorder (MDD) impacts approximately 350 million all over the globe. Science claims it has never been that high in the history of humankind.
Are we in crisis? Hell, yes!
Do we need to do something about it? Immediately.
What can we do?
Advertisement, media, health insurances and the pharmaceutical industry suggest a whole bundle of solutions: Yoga, meditation, relaxation, more sleep, better nutrition, breathing techniques, self-help guides and if all of this fails – antidepressants.
Big corporations like Google or SAP provide their own mindfulness training program by now. Health days are held, where employees receive instructions on a stress-free lifestyle.
One might question the motivation behind such courses. Are the big players honestly interested in the well-being of their employees? And if so, would less pressure and expectancy in efficiency and performance contribute at least equally to stress reduction? Could some of these methods, like mindfulness, even be used with the hidden (or less hidden) agenda to make people even more efficient?
For those of us who are not responding to the "softer forms" of stress reduction, the pharmaceutical industry provides another answer: antidepressants.
One of ten people in the US is on antidepressants. The number of people in Germany on the drug has more than doubled over the last 10 years. Whether your depressed or anxious. Whether you suffer from burnout, stress or obsessive-compulsive disorder, antidepressants are THE solution.
How well does this approach actually work?
Unfortunately 23 to 78 percent of the patients report health issues after taking antidepressants. And this for drugs which works only for 60 percent of people after all! Getting off the drug can be extremely difficult. More than half of the people who tried to remove the pills reported it to be “very hard”.
I once talked to a psychiatrist on the efficiency of antidepressants. I asked him if the underlying cause for depression is actually cured by taking the pills. “No”, he responded, “but I usually expect that in the course of a year the living circumstances of the patient change. Such a change than eliminates the cause of the depression.”
Well, and if the circumstances don’t change?
In Germany 16 percent of patients who get on antidepressants do not see a doctor in more than a year. More than 20 percent of people who take the drug, take it for 10 years or longer.
To me, this smells like addiction! People willing to take a drug, because the alternative, whether it is depression, anxiety or burnout, is so painful, that continuing to take a health-threatening pills seems to be the only alternative.
One reason for the immense increase in the use of antidepressants, is a lack places on therapy programs. In Germany people wait in average 6 weeks for a first meeting with a therapist and up to five months before they actually can start therapy.
It is time to refuse getting drugged up and search with some honesty and perseverance for the roots of stress.
What we need is stress destruction – not stress reduction. And stress destruction is a two way street!
Yes, we need to have a close look at habits, patterns and tendencies which add stress and suffering to our lives. We have to inspect where we react in unhealthy ways to others, the environment and our own inner turmoil. To relax and calm down is an essential part of this path. Only if the mind has some ease, we can establish enough clarity to see how we can respond with more compassion and wisdom to life’s challenges.
We need mind-body workers to teach us how we can find relative relief from pain, physical as well as emotional. Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, etc., and sometimes even medication have a place in our lives. But they can only function as a basis from which we then pick up the responsibility to look at our behavior, asking ourselves “What causes suffering? What do I need to see with honesty and clarity? What changes can contribute to more ease and peace of mind?”
AND, we must not fall into the trap to ascribe all the causes for stress onto ourselves. Keep in mind, that we live in a culture, a society which is to a great extend sickening and destructive. Look at the state of the environment, the wars, the increase of right wing populism, pay gap, racism and sexism.
At our workplaces, the constant drive to grow in efficiency and performance puts immense pressure on us. In some environments you could be as mindful as you want – it will remain stressful, marked by pressure, bullying and exploitation. Do not buy into the believe that everything can be endured if only we work enough on the “inner”. To buy into this story mutes our legitimate wish for fairness, equality, creativity and appreciation.
We need stress destruction, not another patch on the smoldering wound!
We need workplaces, which respect human limits!
We need a society where families, kids, elderly and handicapped people are accepted with their special needs!
We need communities in which we support each other instead of competing against each other!
And we need the courage to face our habits and patterns, in order to respond to life with clarity and wisdom!