A new study from the World Health Organisation (WHO) concludes that child depression is more disabling and creates more misery than chronic illnesses such as asthma and even leukemia. The results showed that depression was by a significant margin the most difficult to bear.
As a clinical psychologist, this is not much of a revelation; I witness the misery of depressed children in my clinic every day. What was remarkable to me was that the study presumes depression to be an illness—a medical problem. The public hears this kind of nonsense all the time. While childhood depression clearly manifests itself in many bodily symptoms, including lower energy, aches/pains, sleep and eating disturbance, there is not a shred of evidence that depression—even the most debilitating depression—constitutes a medical illness or disease.
Thankfully, the overly simplistic biochemical imbalance hypothesis has lost favor in reputable psychiatric literature, mostly due to the fact that billions of dollars of research over several decades have brought no confirming evidence. Despite clever advertising by drug companies, no biochemical imbalances have ever been causally connected to depression–or any other form of emotional suffering—in children or adults. The brain scan evidence bank is similarly bankrupt: no lesions or other brain differences have been shown to cause depression.
The reality that few researchers want to contend with is that children hurt because they are both corporeal and non-corporeal beings. That is, we have bodies and souls; both of these are real components of our humanness. Consequently, either component can be healthy; either can suffer pain. Both require attention to be healthy and/or heal.
Because psychiatry desperately wishes to be considered a “hard science”, it subscribes to philosophic naturalism, which acknowledges no reality except the natural realm. As a consequence, psychiatry treats only the body because according to psychiatry (which ironically means “treatment of the soul”), the soul does not exist. Perhaps this is why the treatment success rate of psychiatric medications is so poor (“antidepressants” barely do as well as placebo or fake pills; instead they merely cover up or suppress symptoms).
The fact is no medical treatment exists for a child’s soul. There simply cannot be such a thing. One cannot heal a broken heart with a donut—even a really good donut. As long as psychiatrists and other mental health professionals try to conceive of emotional pain as disease, they will continue to perpetuate the misery of millions of children. I applaud the World Health Organisation’s recognition that child depression is extremely painful and debilitating. However, they should be asking what help is available to the hurting, empty, sometimes lost souls of these depressed children. I sincerely doubt they have the tools to answer this question.