Another great talk by Johann Hari on the value of approaches to treating anxiety and depression that don’t focus exclusively on
He tells the story of a Cambodian farmer who, after losing a leg to a US mind while working in the rice fields, was too traumatised to go back to work there. He would cry all day, he refused to get out of bed, isn short, he developed all of the classical symptoms of depression. But the doctors in his community didn’t turn to drugs:
One of the doctors working in the community figured “You know, if we bought this guy a cow, he could become a dairy farmer, he wouldn’t be in this position that was screwing him up so much. He wouldn’t have to go and work in the rice fields.” So they bought him a cow. Within a couple of weeks his crying stopped, within a month his depression was gone.
They said to Dr. Sommerferld, “So you see doctor, that cow, that was an anti-depressant. That’s what you mean, right?
Johann Hari on the importance of looking at mental health from a social perspective as well as a pharmaceutical one. He cites the example of a a GP named Sam Everington who in addition to offering antidepressants, encouraged the patients who came to him with depression to work together to turn a pice of derelict land into a garden:
As they got to know each other, they did what human beings do when we form tribes and groups; they started to solve each others’ problems.
So for example one of the people in the group was sleeping on the bus was sleeping on a bus. Everyone else in the group was like “well of course you’re depressed, you’re sleeping on a bus! They started lobbying the local council to get him a house. They got him housed. It was the first time most of them had done something for someone else in years. That made them feel really good.
And the way Lisa put it to me “As the garden began to bloom, we began to bloom.”