The Depression Epidemic by John Cali

According to Andrew Weil, MD, “…some substantial percentage of the depression epidemic is manufactured by the medical-pharmaceutical industry.” He goes on to say the industry has convinced many people that ordinary sadness is an abnormal condition, a “disease” that should be treated with drugs.

But even if that “substantial percentage” is removed, Dr, Weil continues, it still leaves us with a huge number of folks with unexplained depression. The number has increased the past 50 years. Depression is particularly widespread in industrialized countries, especially the United States.

Among the possible causes, Dr. Weil says, are information overload, the frantic pace of modern life, social isolation, fast-food diets, lack of exercise, etc.

Social isolation is one of the biggest causes, in his opinion. Modern conveniences and technology, while in some ways bringing us closer together, have in other ways cut us off from personal, face-to-face interactions with other people.

So what’s the answer?

Antidepressants, according to Dr. Weil, are not the answer. They don’t work for over half the people who take them. The reason, he says, is the drugs treat the effects of depression, not its causes. That’s nothing new in traditional western medical practice.

Dr. Weil says one answer is “mindfulness” — or meditation. Mindfulness is “the technique of bringing all of our awareness to the here and now, to the immediate sensations in our bodies and our breathing, for example, rather than letting much of it slip away in contemplation of the past and future or of other subjects that are not present.”

I think that’s also a great description of meditation.

Tests done with mindfulness, Dr. Weil continues, show people who practice it find as much relief as antidepressants give them. It addresses the causes of depression. Seems to me it’s a no-brainer to choose mindfulness (or meditation). However it does take more effort than simply popping a pill.

Many among my family and friends suffer from depression, sometimes severe. Some are on antidepressants. None I’m aware of practice meditation.

When I was much younger I had occasional bouts of depression. But they never lasted more than a day or two. And since I started meditating over 30 years ago, I’ve had no depression at all. Sure, I still have my “down” times and challenges, but they never nosedive into depression.

So I’ve never experienced prolonged or severe depression. But I’ve worked with, and known, enough people over the years who have. I feel the greatest compassion for them.

Here are some of Spirit’s thoughts on depression:

“What is depression? In physical terms, one definition would be, for example, a hole in the ground. The hole is a “depression.” So too, when you are feeling depressed, there is a hole in your human being-ness. But just as a hole in the ground can be easily filled and made ‘whole,’ so too can that hole in your human being-ness be made whole.

“You all have the power to consciously tune into your higher selves. You can do this in any way that feels good and right for you. Meditation is certainly one powerful way to do it.

“By whatever way you do it, when you are tuned into your higher selves, tuned into God, you will find your depression being filled and made whole. Depression — the ‘hole-ness’ — is not who you are. Wholeness is.

“Some of your medical people attribute depression to a ‘chemical imbalance.’ But the chemical imbalance is only your body’s reaction to your misalignment with who you truly are. The depression is not the result of the chemical imbalance. Certainly, the chemical imbalance almost always exists when there is depression. But the chemical imbalance is the inevitable consequence of your disconnection. Your disconnection is the cause of your depression.

“While we have the greatest compassion for those of you experiencing depression, we also want you to remember every one of you is all-wise and all-powerful. That’s how we see you. That’s how your higher selves see you. That’s how God sees you.

“When you see yourselves through our eyes you will move out of your depression. It will be impossible for you to be depressed, no matter what is going on in the world around you. And that includes a medical diagnosis of chemical imbalance.”


Do you or anyone you know suffer from chronic depression? What positive steps can or do you take to lift yourself out of depression? Please comment below.

We welcome your comments and thoughtful opinions. Please keep them kind and compassionate. If needed, we’ll edit for clarity. Also, we’ll delete anything we consider inappropriate.

15 Responses

  1. M G

    John, if I may clarify a bit on my earlier comments. For me, mindfulness, prayer and other techniques for staying connected to spirit require a degree of self-awareness. Without pharmaceutical balancing assistance, I am robbed of this faculty. So antidepressants are helpful for me in offering a baseline, from which I can begin the same kind of work we all strive to do when mood problems diminish our experience. I will also say that my experience helps me to be more compassionate with others who are troubled. Thanks again, John, and happy blessings to you and yours!

    • John Cali

      I understand. I appreciate your additional comments. I would never tell anyone it’s wrong to rely on drugs or doctors. In many cases, such as yours, that reliance is the path back to physical and spiritual balance and health. For others, it is not. But none of us have any right to judge or criticize another’s path. All we can do is offer our own perspective. So thank you again for sharing yours.


    • John Cali

      Hi again,

      I just came across this quotation from Abraham — “coincidentally” it’s very relevant to our conversation:

      “‘Is this pill really an effective pill? Is this process really an effective process?’ Anything that causes you to allow what you desire is the process of coming into alignment. And so, we’re not, in any way, validating or invalidating anything.

      “Many offer their ‘dog and pony show’ as being the one that works. And good
      for all of them. We applaud anything that assists someone in allowing the Well-being, that they so much want and deserve, to flow.”

  2. M G

    Blessings to you today, and every day, John, and thank you for bringing up this interesting topic. I know this is a very charged issue, and I’d like to add a different point of view if I may. “Feeling down,” even severely so, and suffering from brain chemistry imbalances have many things in common. The former is responsive to mindful techniques, and, in my experience, the latter is only responsive to any mind-based solutions once the causative chemical imbalance is addressed.
    I notice Dr. Weil is quoted as saying that drug-based medical solutions don’t work for half the people who take them. I am a member of the other half, and in my experience, when these drugs are appropriately prescribed, they do indeed treat the cause, rather than the effects, of severe depression. I am very grateful to live at a time when the delicate nature of brain chemistry balance is understood to the degree that relatively simple adjustments (such as with fluoxetine) create for me the possibility of having a productive, happy life. I feel I am able to be myself, to connect with Spirit, and be of service in the world. This was not possible for me at all before I was found to be a good candidate for a pharmaceutical solution to my inherited imbalance. So, while I understand that drugs like Prozac are frequently misprescribed, I am grateful, for myself and other members of my family, that they are an option.

    • John Cali

      Thank you very much for sharing your experiences. In our article I mentioned family members taking antidepressants. What I didn’t mention was some of them had positive experiences with the drugs, as you did. And, as Dr. Weil clearly implied, many folks were helped by the drugs. So thanks again for sharing.

    • Judith Anderson

      I agree with this as well. Anything can be a tool for transformation.

      Even though I found the strong psychotropic drugs my doctor tried to give me after the death of my child a block to the healing work I needed to do, I found that the drug I was given to help deal with panic attacks was a great help, and in using it I soon learned how I wanted my body to feel and usually could do it through intent and no longer needed to take the drug. As long as I had it in the medicine cabinet, I was fine and would only panic if I ran out – which usually meant that the Rx was out of date. I still have an old bottle of Xanax from 1997, almost full.

      Something Spirit said above struck me, about using our divine connection.

      The greatest difficulty for me after my son was killed was that I found myself shut off from this connection. I had spent my life with a loving, teaching voice coming to me on a regular basis and to be without that was losing one of my essential senses. That spiritual void was very depressing.

      One night, I stood outside under the stars and managed to get into State using a chakra meditation, and once contact was established, I directly asked for help in maintaining connection.

      The message I was given was to simply say, “Beloved, I am here” and the contact would come, and it worked.

  3. Chris

    This is a loaded topic, eh?!! I began to notice that when I’m feeling down, harried, in physical pain, the first thing to “go” is my posture. That only serves to add to the ick mentioned above.
    I now have sticky notes posted in several strategic spots. I drew an arrow pointing up to remind me to lift my sternum. A few days later I added a circle to the top of the arrow because my head did not always come up. Much harder to wallow with perky posture. I’m not being flip here. This along with reminding myself to focus on the present moment really does lift my spirits. May this tip lift at least one other dear Soul.

    • John Cali

      Thank you, Chris. I think that’s a great tip, and I appreciate you sharing it with all of us.

  4. Judith Anderson

    Earlier today I commented to a dear fiend that I am happier now than I have ever been.

    I know that I had a troubled life with a lot of depressing incidents, but those are gone. I have learned the important lesson: What you think of me is none of my business, and I no longer get upset about the opinions of others. I also no longer feel that I have to know everything or always be right.

    Aside from meditation, the greatest help to me when I was in a bad place was music. I started studying classical piano when I was four and still play so many years later. Plus, there is certain recorded music that always cheers me up. Particularly good banjo music. I love Dueling Banjos and Dan Fogelberg’s Morning Sky.

    One technique I learned from a Tony Robbins lecture was to get into a depressed posture, which is curled forward, shoulders slumped, head down, and then imagine something that excites you and get up and walk around waving your arms and talking about what you love. I chose my cats. The change physically is great, and after that I started walking around, waving my arms and talking about cats whenever I started to feel down.

    I also added St.John’s Wort and SAMe to my diet.

    I am always amused by the list of symptoms and assumptions as to what shows that people are depressed. I am a loner by choice. I live with one cat and have days when I see and speak to no one. I have always planned that someday I would be a little old lady with cats who could just sit and read, and here I am, a very happy little old lady, just sitting and reading.

    Another is the assumption that because I weigh more than the desired look of the moment I must be depressed. I enjoy good food and am not interested in depriving myself to try to fit someone else’s values. When I see myself in a mirror or a window reflection I always smile and say, Hi, Pretty Girl.

    I hit a very bad patch around 25-26 years ago in which my family was hit by a series of violent crimes which eventually led to threats to burn my house and the violent deaths of my father and my 16 year old son.

    I had a real struggle against doctors who wanted to give me strong anti depressants, and in Compassionate Friends I saw how the bereaved fathers tended to self medicate with alcohol and the mothers were often overmedicated by their doctors, putting them in a fog where the grieving work could not be done.

    I understood that the grief was a proper emotion in the circumstances and refused the drugs and battled back, and here I am, amazingly Happy.

    • Judith Anderson

      Thank you for this discussion. Reading what I wrote earlier and thinking about it some more and I suddenly realized that I had a lifelong pattern of noticing what makes me happy and emphasing that as much as possible.

      While there have been some life events beyond my direct control, I have alwas believed that I can control how I choose to respond to such events. It is not perfect and has had some ups and downs, but thank goodness I am consciously happy.

    • John Cali

      Thanks again for sharing your experiences, Judith. In putting your own inner guidance above society’s standards, you set a great example for many others to follow.


  5. jerry pottle

    Hello John and Spirit,

    In my family (I am the youngest), I have two older sisters. One is bipolar and the other is usually in a good mood. As I observed them when growing up, they taught me a lot about life. Not too many people like to be around my bipolar sister but love to be around my other one. This used to amaze me that people in the same family can be so different.

    People often ask me why I am smiling =) and I usually never give a straight answer… just to make them think a little bit. I feel that when we look around us each day to see and feel the god energy within…it would be kinda tough to feel depressed. Appreciating life and friends and gratitude, for me, fills me up.

    Eventually, everyone will come around to know who they are inside. For me, I love to tease people when they get serious and give them a hug. Keep life simple…. All is well!

    Jerry = )

    • John Cali

      Thanks so much, Jerry, for your delightful comments. I love your practice of teasing folks when they get serious. That keeps ’em on the “straight and narrow.” 🙂


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.