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.




9 responses

16 08 2014
Ruth Lipscombe

Loved this article.
I should take it to my GP.Then he might believe me when I tell him the abominable LNP is CAUSING my high blood pressure.

16 08 2014

My GP believes me….. and agrees!

17 08 2014

“It is no measure of good health, to be well adjusted, in a profoundly sick society.”

18 08 2014

Yep, like many others, I have been very saddened by Robin’s death. He was indeed a sincere and caring person, something that came through in his movies. The following article, in The New Matilda is very well written:-

18 08 2014

Just found this too……..:

“For years my father–who is a really great guy–has been telling me that I’d be a happier person if I didn’t write about all the converging threats bearing down on the human race. Turns out he’s right!

Here’s what a new study said on the matter:

Recent evidence suggests that a state of good mental health is associated with biased processing of information that supports a positively skewed view of the future. Depression, on the other hand, is associated with unbiased processing of such information.

Let me translate: If you fool yourself about what you are really seeing in the world and convince yourself that it will lead to a good future for you and whomever else you care about, you’ll maintain good mental health. If, on the other hand, you look reality squarely in the eye, you are more likely to get depressed. Life, as it turns out, isn’t a bed of roses.

Now, I would put the “positively skewed” person in the same category as turkeys. You may be familiar with philosopher Bertrand Russell’s story of the turkey. A farmer feeds this turkey every morning. Using inductive reasoning, the turkey becomes more and more convinced each day that the morning feedings will extend indefinitely. One day the farmer appears with an ax, demonstrating the weakness of inductive reasoning.”

Darn good read @

18 08 2014

“Thoughts of suicide, sexual difficulties and emotional numbness as a result of anti-depressants”, that’s the half of New Zealanders THAT are on anti depressants… NOT, “half of New Zealanders are on anti depressants…”

The future is looking great, just not for dinosaurs & other soon to be extinct mammal line. But for life & its evolutionary changes it’s a whole new world out there.
And as I say, “a change is as good as a holiday”.

19 08 2014

I’ve suffered under depression for most of my life. The “normal” stuff, ante-natal, post natal and recently I’ve been really struggling of late and it’s most definitely climate depression. Many people I know, friend and foe, have been struggling of late too. I fear we will see more people reaching breaking point as society collapses in on itself.
I hope Robin rests in peace. I would never advocate suicide but I can understand the pain that drives people to that end.

19 08 2014

Hang in there Jessie……. we need you, we need each other, and whatever you do, stay in touch….

19 08 2014

I fully intend on doing so. 🙂 I have 3 kids who need me and I feel I have too much to offer to a new/old way of life to let go. Hope is there. Hope in the soil. Hope in the veggies I grow to feed my family. Hope in the chooks we raise for meat and eggs. There is always some hope.

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