The first time I came across Johann Hari was during a podcast episode with Matt D’Avella that I’ll link below:
While listening to the two of them talking about loneliness, I found Johann Hari’s comments to make more sense than usual. Not that concepts don’t make sense to me, but when you listen to some people talk about loneliness and depression they make it seem like a problem caused by one or the other reason.
“Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people, he said—it’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else. If you have lots of people around you—perhaps even a husband or wife, or a family, or a busy workplace—but you don’t share anything that matters with them, then you’ll still be lonely.”
The research around mental health is still evolving and continuously improving, there is no one solution that can work for everyone, and not one cause for someone struggling or in pain.
So to write off, a problem – a mental health problem – with medicine or therapy alone isn’t conducive or effective for everyone.
“Depression is a cover version by a downbeat emo band, and anxiety is a cover version by a screaming heavy metal group, but the underlying sheet music is the same. They’re not identical, but they are twinned.”
Lost Connections by Johann Hari was an eye-opening book for me personally on depression and anxiety, and how it became a billion dollar industry for Pharmaceuticals.
After listening to the talk that I’ve linked above (I recommend you listen to it as well) I felt so compelled to read his book that I bought it straight away.
Johann Hari has struggled with depression since he was a kid and after it being diagnosed as a “chemical imbalance” he was prescribed drugs to supposedly fix it when he became teenager.
But he still felt the same mental turmoil and the side effects became more prominent that included weight gain, anxiety and more.
“You aren’t a machine with broken parts. You are an animal whose needs are not being met. You need to have a community. You need to have meaningful values, not the junk values you’ve been pumped full of all your life…”
This lead him to conduct research on why he still feel this way when the medicines were supposed to heal him and eventually he went around the world, meeting with social scientists to figure out an answer to this question.
“When work is enriching, life is fuller, and that spills over into the things you do outside work,” he said to me. But “when it’s deadening,” you feel “shattered at the end of the day, just shattered.”
Ultimately, the chapters are divided into the 9 causes of depression and anxiety described as “disconnection” and 7 ways on how to overcome them or at least “reconnect” with yourself and the environment.
“The Internet was born into a world where many people had already lost their sense of connection to each other. The collapse had already been taking place for decades by then. The comedian Marc Maron once wrote that “every status update is a just a variation on a single request: ‘Would someone please acknowledge me?”
Some of the revelations he makes in this book regarding the Pharma industry were so terrifying in the sense that we take medicines blindly with the conviction that they will cure us, when infact those drugs aren’t even regulated most of the time.
“of all the studies drug companies carry out, 40% are never released to the public, and lots more are only released selectively, with any negative findings left on the cutting room floor.”
Hasan Minhaj on his show Patriot Act also talked about the opioid epidemic in US especially with Fentanly which can be found in medicines. Here is the link to it:
Similarly, the main case that he made against Mental Health was that it isn’t a problem that can be solved by using only drugs or only reconnecting with your environment or only going to therapy.
Our brain is a complex organ consisting of billions of synapses and in order to understand it and treat it, our solutions need to be compounded as well.
“Nobody can help you but you. Nobody can help me but me. These ideas now run so deep in our culture that we even offer them as feel-good bromides to people who feel down—as if it will lift them up.”
I will admit that some parts of the book where he cites research were pretty old and not based on research conducted in the recent years. But then again any medical research regarding mental health is still on going and for what little or old data that we have, valuable insights can be gained.
“the more unequal the society, the more prevalent all forms of mental illnesses are… the higher the inequality, the higher the depression.”
Lost Connections by Johann Hari is the one book that I hope you actually pick up and read, after reading all that I’ve written above. I belong to a society where mental health issues are seen as a consequence of lack of faith or trust in God, and a taboo.
But for me personally, this book was enlightening and made me want to make a conscious effort towards a better mindset.
As humans we’re meant to be together with other humans in the form of a community or tribe, and despite this age of being connected 24/7 through a small little black device that in constantly in our hands, we’ve never been lonelier.
“we lost the ability to understand that there are some problems that can’t be solved by shopping.”
Words, touch, gestures, intentions are important to keep us humane and despite the world being in chaos we cannot let go of it, just because there is anarchy wherever you look.
“So instead of seeing your depression and anxiety as a form of madness, I would tell my younger self—you need to see the sanity in this sadness. You need to see that it makes sense. Of course it is excruciating. I will always dread that pain returning, every day of my life. But that doesn’t mean the pain is insane, or irrational.”
One thing that I learned from Factfulness by Hans Rosling and Co, was that the world was always in turmoil, but that doesn’t mean there is no good in it. The world was always bad but it is getting better.
It is upto you whether you stop at “… the world is a bad…” or “…the world is a bad place but getting better!” similarly, life is a struggle. There will be highs and lows.
A life with only highs is meaningless because you don’t feel the pain that keeps you humane (I am not trying to romanticise pain here).
So, if you’re struggling (like most of do) or know a friend who is, lend your ear to hear out their woes and try to find compassion for them and yourself. Asking for help shouldn’t be considered a weakness and I hope whoever reads this, finds the peace they are looking for.
And lastly, reading this book may change your life if you keep an open mind to it.
Onto the basics:
- Rating: 5.0/5.0
- Favorite quote: “What if depression is, in fact, a form of grief—for our own lives not being as they should? What if it is a form of grief for the connections we have lost, yet still need?”
- Reader level:
- Should you read: Yeah why not.
- Would I read it again: Definitely not
Till next time,