I was recently involved in a discussion about someone who had committed suicide. I don’t know the details but evidently the victim was a successful, mid-career man, suffering from depression. A major contributing factor was job stress. Here is how the dialogue went:
A Tough Guy (TG)- The guy was stupid and weak-minded. He needed to master his thoughts. If his job was stressful, he should have gotten another one. If his thoughts were troubling, he should changed them. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.
A Compassionate Guy (CG) – Depression can strike anyone, it is a disease. If you experience enough stress you can have a mental breakdown. Just spend a few hours in a war zone or a few years in a stressful job and you can find out for yourself. If possible you should avoid bad situations, but you can’t always do that. Depressed persons need compassion and professional help.
TG – If you really care about someone tell them not to put themselves in situations where they might get hurt.
CG – Sure. But if they’re already suffering from mental illness it’s too late. By that time they are then in a situation which is beyond their control. At that point free will, if it exists, can’t intervene.
A Former Depressed Guy (FS) – When you are suffering from depression you can’t think rationally, just like when you are physically ill you can’t perform certain physical tasks. Friends helped me get help before I had my own breakdown, but many aren’t that lucky.
A Social Scientist (SS) – It’s problematic to insinuate that the fault with depression or suicide lies within the person. One million people decide to take their life every year, that’s 1.5% of all deaths
worldwide. The problem is the system. Many want to get out of the kitchen, but they can’t because the kitchen is the whole world. So we should destroy the kitchen, and rebuild it so that it doesn’t burn us any more.
An Economist (E) – It’s clear that the developed world faces issues related to stress—largely driven by capitalistic modes of production which have reduced the value of individual human experience. Here is an article
about South Korea that makes the point.
TG – Don’t blame the world; blame yourself. You decided to become stressed. So change yourself.
SS – We need societal structural change which leads to individual change, which in turn leads to societal change. We need a society based on a new social contract that meets people’s biological and psychological needs. A world where people aren’t forced into competitive environments. A cooperative society based more on social capital than economic capital. A society with work that is stable and psychologically fulfilling.
TG – Until then if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.
CG – That’s what this talented man did. He followed your advice. That’s not an indictment of him, even by your own standards. It’s an indictment of the world. We need to rethink the world.