Depressed by the Protests and Social Unrest? Getting to the Root of Your Distress

Even the most casual look at your cell notifications is enough to inspire angst and dread these days. A global pandemic and the ensuing economic trials were enough to severely diminish an entire decade… but then came widespread protests in the wake of appalling racism.

What does it mean if the social unrest depresses you or intensified pre-existing depression? Is that a statement about you or your worldview? How can you tell and what should you do now?

It’s a complicated issue to unpack but the process could prove to be both enlightening and a path to healing you might not expect.

So, where do you even begin?

Taking a Wider View of Things

First, breathe and pull back from the daily chaos of 2020. It is often helpful and more productive to shift your perspective.

Contrary to popular opinion, the United States has a long history of internal strife. There’s the Civil War, of course, and its related Draft Riots. But far more recently, the years 1967 and 1968 present some eerie parallels to our current situation.

The bottom line? As a nation, we’ve worked our way through some seemingly impassable obstacles. So, for starters, it may really help to do a historical deep dive — whether it be reading books, streaming documentaries, or talking with trusted friends. Self-education can add a calming context to the 24/7 news cycle.

Depression in a Time of Turmoil

Recently, a study was done in Hong Kong to learn more about the mental health impact of a) the large-scale protest movement and b) the extreme response by the state. Prior to the relevant strife (2009 to 2014), about 2 percent of Hong Kong residents reported symptoms of depression. As the protests escalated, so did the depression. That number reached 11.2 percent in 2019.

Additionally, a collective overview of 52 studies related to mental health in a protest/riot setting was completed as well. In all, the overview encompassed 20 countries and a total number of 57,487 individual participants. Some key findings:

  • Major protests were found to increase cases of probable major depression by up to 7 percent
  • When riots occur, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) spikes upward from 4 to 41 percent (depending on proximity and personal involvement)

Co-morbid risk factors were identified too, e.g.

  • Lack of social support
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • High activity levels on social media

Good News

Two of the studies included in the overview found that the collective aspect of a protest movement can serve to reduce depression and decrease the likelihood of suicide.

Steps You Can Take to Ease Your Depression and Get to the Root of Your Distress

Guard Your Mind

Feeding off the aforementioned findings, it makes plenty of sense to regulate your social media exposure and activity. No matter how serious the issues are, you cannot make sound decisions when you’re overwhelmed and overstimulated.

Don’t Go it Alone

Connect with others to discuss the major current issues and/or take action. Don’t follow the crowd. Do the work to make sure you are being true to your beliefs and not being swayed by peer pressure.

Resist Feeling Guilted Into Steps That Make You Uncomfortable

Particularly in the midst of an expanding pandemic, self-care is essential. Each of us is responsible for our own safety and mental wellbeing.

Be Willing to Evolve

In times of intense unrest, the world may appear starkly black and white, right or wrong.

Try to remember that, while some issues and values require strict moral guidelines, many other aims and ideas are fluid. You needn’t exacerbate your mental turmoil rigidity but aiming for complete purity. Keep an open mind, be flexible. Take in as much information as you can, hone your listening skills, and engage in productive conversations.

Again, Don’t Go It Alone

Tough times and meaningful change call for collective efforts. One of the most important collaborations you can now choose is to work with a therapist. Whether you meet in-person or via video chat, taking care of yourself is a first step to creating a better community and a better world.

I’m here to support you. Please read more about depression treatment and reach out today for a free consultation!