In 1621, Robert Burton published his studies of Melancholy, where he had described the psychological, environmental and social causes of depression. Quite profoundly, Robert Burton had taken a leap beyond the current understanding and listed the potential causes for Melancholy (Depression) to be; poor social circumstances such as loneliness, poverty and chronic fear (anxiety). What he had recommended as treatment is alarmingly similar to our most recent advice. He suggested that individuals who suffer should, in fact, eat a healthier diet, exercise, find positive distractions, travel, detox and he had even suggested that one should turn to music as a form of therapy. Although by today’s standards, Robert Burton’s research was far from complete, he had expressed many means of treatment that is recognised today.
We Didn’t Know
As years passed, we had unfortunately adopted outrageous and completely ineffective forms of treatments, of which was largely due to an increase of negative stigma. Moving into the “Age of Enlightenment” (the 1700s and early 1800s), it was a common belief that depression was the faculty of unchangeable weakness. This had progressed to the conclusion that individuals who experience Mental Health issues should be institutionalised where most would eventually become homeless as a result of neglect. Such ridiculous overviews of Mental Illness potentially stemmed from a rigid belief system that yielded scientific studies of depression as it did not fit within the narrative of religion.
What We Have Achieved
Our treatments for depression and our understanding of its causes have taken dramatic changes, as knowledge now parallels our ability to use technology. Robert Burton had made extraordinary advances but even he was shackled by a lack of resources. For we are now able to prove the benefits of exercise and diet, we now understand the causes more than ever before and have found therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness, which has become internationally recognised. Today we are a society that is healing from the devastating impressions that those who spoke before us had made. Therefore, perhaps our greatest testament is the fact we have created events such as World Mental Health Day and are becoming a society that acts as a compassionate community so that we can support and help those who stand next to us, and provide Mental Health Training
to the people who need it. Each year our awareness and knowledge is expanding and although we can improve, we can finally say that we are on the correct path to liberating ourselves from Mental Health issues.
Perhaps we can now become aware of the advances we have made and by doing so, find confidence in that Mental Health is no longer an unchangeable condition and that it more curable than ever before. If one person has recovered, we can find a way to ensure that everyone can recover.