More on Depression

16 08 2014

It’s a miserable day today.  Cold, rainy, and worst of all…….  the AGA’s flue looks like it’s blocked up, and getting up on the roof to clean it out in this weather is simply out of the question!  My fault, I had scrap pine left over, and I decided to put it through the stove to get rid of it, and now I pay the price……. at least, all things being equal, we might end up with full tanks again by the time this deluge ends, we do need the rain.


Nicole Thornton

The passing of Robin Williams by his own hand has caused much gnashing of teeth on the internet, and a rebound in posts about depression and suicide.  So this is what I’m writing about on this rainy afternoon.  The post I put up about ‘everyone I know is heartbroken’ attracted a lot of attention; then the other day this very interesting article turned up in my intray… it’s from the Sydney Morning Herald, and is titled “A climate of despair”, written by

Nicole Thornton remembers the exact moment her curious case of depression became too real to ignore. It was five years ago and the environmental scientist – a trained biologist and ecologist – was writing a rather dry PhD on responsible household water use.

After a two-decade career in green awareness and eco-tourism, Thornton was happy to finally be researching her pet project at the University of Technology in Sydney – but she was also on edge.
Thornton had always been easily upset by apathy towards, and denial of, environmental issues. But now she began to notice an oddly powerful personal reaction to “the small stuff” – like people littering, or neighbours chopping down an old tree.
She found herself suddenly and strongly enveloped by unfamiliar feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, anger and anxiety.

“It’s strange. Sometimes you just don’t feel you’re making headway in the time you’ve got, before it’s too late for the planet,” Thornton says. “All these little things weigh you down, and then the big stuff breaks you.”

I don’t know about you, but this really resonates with me……  At my age, I have way less time than Nicole Thornton does, and if she feels like she’s running out of time, imagine how it feels from behind this nearly white beard.

If the term “climate depression” is new to you, it should be. No such condition is recognised by the world of psychiatry. There is no formalised syndrome. If there is a disorder of this kind, it has not been acknowledged by the medical community. Thornton herself wonders whether the moniker is misleading – whether “despair and disempowerment” might be better.


From what I’ve read about Robin Williams, he too felt a bit like that.  Depression  is thought to be caused by an  imbalance in brain chemistry in many cases, or an extreme traumatic experience…. but I have my own theory; when you live in a depressing world, how else can you feel?  Depression is now so widespread, it’s become ‘normal’.  Someone recently told me half of New Zealanders are on anti depressants…  how depressing is THAT?

From Think Progress..:

Williams took global warming seriously in the way only a great comic can. Back in 2002, he did this riff:

… And they say there is no global warming, but right now the North Pole is a pool. There’s things just floating away….
It is beyond global warming at this point. It is cooking.
It is 105 in the middle of the country and people come up going “Is it hot enough for you?”
“No I like sweat to be rolling down the crack of my ass like Niagara. I like my old man titties to lactate.”
And you see people in shorts and you’re going, “Please don’t wear those…. Oh please don’t put those on.”

In the “Happy Feet” movies, penguins deal with the effects of global warming. In “FernGully,” the “magical inhabitants of a rain-forest fight to save their home, which is threatened by logging and a polluting force of destruction called Hexxus,” as Think Progress explains in their piece, “7 Social Issues Robin Williams Brought To The Screen.”

Williams provides colourful comic relief in the story, though not without a message against deforestation and unchecked development: “First thing, all these trees go,” he says, “Then come your highways, then come your shopping malls, and your parking lots, and your convenience stores…” The film was shown at the U.N. General Assembly on Earth Day, 1992.

So I ask, might not Robin have been affected by the state of the environment too?  Pure speculation, I agree, but all the things in his life added up to unhappiness.  At least I have a plan for the future to keep me going….  but I worry about all those who don’t, and form the majority of the people I know who all think I’m nuts.  When in fact it’s they who are nuts!

“Doomer depression” and “apocalypse fatigue”), despondency over a what many, myself included, believe is societal failure to adequately acknowledge or address environmental issues has, become a line of psychological inquiry. Susie Burke, a senior psychologist with the Australian Psychological Society, has done extensive work on the mental impact of climate change.  Only last month, she made a presentation on mental health and the environment, as part of the Climate Reality Project, hosted by former US vice-president Al Gore at Rod Laver Arena and attended by hundreds of committed weary campaigners.  Don’t know if Clive Palmer attended….  Several experts suggest that the overall intersection of mental health and climate change is one we ignore at our peril.

To finish, here is a really lovely epitaph to Robin Williams.  It really touched me.  Enjoy.