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Are You Depressed?
They say our society has fallen into “depression.” The diagnosis is based on the “2011 Epidemiological Survey of Mental Disorders” released by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. According to this survey, the number of depression patients in our society has increased 63 percent in the past 10 years. Some 1.3 million people have experienced depression during the past one year and one in every six adults aged 18 or over has suffered from mental disorders.
Some say that the surging rate of mental illness is due to excessive competition and stress that have accompanied high economic growth over a few decades. Others say that Koreans' mental health has recently worsened due to a widening gap between rich and poor, a growing sense of relative deprivation, family disintegration, and insecurities in later life. In other words, mental stress has intensified ahead of economic threats.
This diagnosis is too stereotypical, if not wrong. It is a vague interpretation that has failed to find out accurate reasons why Korean society has sunk into depression. Let`s say someone asks such questions as "How would you say you are doing?" or "Do you expect things will be better in the future?" What will be the response of a typical Korean who is suffering from depression? He may clearly seem lethargic, cynical or despairing. But this does not mean that the person has mental disorder. He simply does not know what he is living for, or how he should live.
The greatest reason Korean society has fallen into depression is that each and every person in our society feels uncertain about what he wants from life and the type of society in which he will live later in life. Everyone vaguely clamors for welfare, growth and fairness. Nevertheless, all of us know that we are blabbering nice words without believing what we say.
Those who are truly groping for a way out will ask, “What should I do?” They may get the answer, “Do what you like to do.” It sounds nice but it actually is a penny`s worth of advice to those who are seriously searching for an answer. The real problem is that they do not know what they want to do.
An individual faces double agony in a society like this. When you blindly attempt to do what you really want to do, you will get stabbed from the other side. “Why do you do that?” “I just find it fun.” Then, the dagger flies straight toward you. “How can you make a living on that?” Hence you come to believe you won`t be able to make a living from doing what you want to do. What now?
Some Koreans do not know what they want to do, while others doing what they want to do are being told that they should not live like that. In a catch-22 situation, people choose an "easier life free from trouble" by taking a lukewarm, half-way attitude. They somewhat do either what they want or don`t want to do. Since what they really want is beyond their reach, they are going to take just similar things or copies.
Then they become depressed. While everyone struggled with a fierce desire for survival in the poverty-ridden past, today`s individuals cannot feel the taste of life at all. Out of a desire to lead an exciting life, they fervently pursue fun but end up being immersed in material pleasure, sensual stimulation and anxiety about being left behind. So they grow even more insecure and gloomy, far from leading an exciting life.
What really matters here is that each individual should find his/her own values in life. If each and every person can determine his/her true life values, Korean society can blow away the blues of depression. It's time for each individual to look for his/her own proud and satisfactory values, instead of appropriateness and justification to look gorgeous in the eyes of others. When every individual can confidently identify his/her own values and accept other people`s different ways, the blues of our society will vanish. Then we will be able to create a happy society in which everybody can trust and cooperate with each other.