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Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy Paperback – October 26, 2007

4.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Levine is a clinical psychologist whose message, which he first explored in 2003's Commonsense Rebellion, is that American society is a pathological society, mired in "an extremist consumer culture" that breeds depression as a matter of course (he points to the American Psychological Association's 1998 statement that the U.S. was suffering "ten to twenty times as much" depression as it was 50 years before). Levine attributes this to three consumerism-driven factors: the failure of the medical profession to account for "societal and cultural sources for despair"; the "psycho-pharmaceutical complex" that pushes health practitioners to prescribe drugs; and therapists' determination not to stray from the standardized counseling rulebook. The solution Levine uses in his own practice recognizes that periods of depression can be a "natural part of the human condition" and "potential sources for motivation and discovery," and combines humor and practical advice to instill the self-acceptance and self-release that will help people pull themselves clear and find "life beyond self." Though the toppling of consumer society advocated in a final section on "Public Passion and Reclaiming Community" may not be entirely realistic (especially for the lone self-helper), Levine's holistic approach, bolstered by plenty of scholarship and popular literary references, will give depression patients a useful big-picture perspective.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"How does a sane person find meaning in a world gone mad? The question is not a new one, but author/psychologist Bruce Levine offers timely insights about the social and cultural causes of demoralization. Like other critical thinkers within the existential tradition Levine implies that the phenomenon of psychological depression is a 'not unreasonable' response to the pressures of corporate authoritarianism. What was once a country of immigrant aliens has become increasingly a country of the alienated. But is this alienation inevitable? Surviving America's Depression Epidemic presents startling facts, powerful anecdotes, and poignant aphorisms. In this, the Dark Age of the pharmaceutical-military-industrial complex, Levine has given a much needed wake-up call which challenges each of us to find our own antidote, in the healing aspects of integrity, nature, self-transcendence, and community."--Grace E. Jackson, MD, author of Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs: A Guide for Informed Consent

"In a society permeated by medicalized images of 'depression,' Bruce Levine reminds us to take a broader view, and incorporate historical analysis, social criticism, cross-cultural perspectives, creative insights, and spiritual wisdom into any future public discourse about why so many in our culture are so unhappy, and how we can best help them thrive instead. Surviving America's Depression Epidemic is a bold, intelligent, courageous, and insightful book that will enlighten and inspire many individuals who count themselves as among 'the depressed' (including myself)."--Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. author of The Human Odyssey, and The Myth of the A.D.D. Child

"While Surviving America's Depression Epidemic is an excellent self-help book, it is not just for the clinically depressed. This well-conceived and researched book illuminates the general malaise tinting the canvas of our lives and validates the background of unhappiness inherent in our contemporary lifestyles--a background often mislabeled as pathological. We are all trying to survive this epidemic. The book is empowering, energizing, and provides a road map to greater psychological health, motivation, and fulfillment."--Stuart Shipko, M.D., author of Surviving Panic Disorder

"If you've ever smelled a rat in the way corporate America tears down community with one hand and pushes antidepressant drugs with the other, this book is for you."--Will Hall, co-founder of Freedom Center (Northampton, MA) and staff member, The Icarus Project

"Surviving America's Depression Epidemic bravely connects much of the overwhelming despair in our society to society itself, and offers innovative remedies. I encourage anyone who has ever asked, 'What are the alternatives to the current mental health system?' -- to read this book. Bruce shows us an array of specific, practical options to fight the good fight on our increasingly demoralized planet. As a psychiatric survivor, I highly recommend that mental health professionals read this book."--David W. Oaks, Director MindFreedom International

"This well-written and insightful book locates depression where it should be situated‐in the dehumanization of American culture and the corporatization of psychological health and well-being. Moreover, Dr. Levine offers insights into what we've lost sight of and what we can do about it."--David Walker, Ph.D., Associate Professor, American School of Professional Psychology

"This is a terrific book. Bruce E. Levine argues convincingly that our modern depression epidemic is the result of a demoralized society. He integrates critical thinking about psychiatry, extensive clinical experience with clients diagnosed as depressed, and a refreshing look at the factors that affect our morale--alienation, consumerism, and spirituality. Highly recommended."--Jeffrey Lacasse, MSW, Visiting Lecturer, College of Social Work, Florida State University

"Levine is the smartest, most level-headed guy around when it comes to depression, and it comes from years of clinical practice, not ivory-towered theory."--Kirkpatrick Sale, contributing editor for The Nation and author of The Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream and After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination

"Unlike pharmaceuticals, this book is an anti-depressant that works. When depression is a reaction to a depressing culture, all the drugs in the world can't numb us to the truth that health--whether mental, physical, or spiritual--is about wholeness. This is the message we should be getting from our preachers, politicians, doctors, teachers, and therapists. What a rare, welcome, and timely message."--Rev. Davidson Loehr, author of America, Fascism, and God

"Levine's holistic approach, bolstered by plenty of scholarship and popular literary references, will give depression patients a useful big-picture perspective."--Publishers Weekly

"Bruce Levine exposes our unhealthy way of life. He argues convincingly that modern medicine--marvel that it is--cannot save us from the pains and struggles that come with living and dying. His is a trenchant, though not ideological, critique of 'powers and principalities' that prey upon depression, powers that have greatly increased in our lifetime. His simple calls to restore lost communal and personal practices ring true. I plan to share this book with church members fighting depression or tempted to despair."--Rev. Randy Cooper, United Methodist pastor (Ripley, TN)

"Surviving America's Depression Epidemic offers a fresh perspective on what ails America, the 'community malnourishment' that fuels dispirited morale, disconnectedness, and a frantic search for meaning. Dr. Levine challenges us to look past diagnoses and labels, reminding us that community and horizontal connections inherently offer the balance with which our souls can be nourished, helping us discern lasting paths to healing and wholeness in American life."--Rabbi Lewis H. Kamrass, Isaac M. Wise Temple (Cincinnati, OH)

"Surviving America's Depression Epidemic inspired me as I was reading it and a few days later I even notice that some of my own ideas and behaviors have actually changed. There are many brilliant insights throughout, forgotten in our modern helping culture. The book would be just as--or even more--useful for helping professionals as for laypersons. It's the best self-help book I've ever read and I'd recommend it to anyone. What makes the book so valuable and interesting... is that Bruce links the most private personal troubles to the most complex socio-economic trends, without trivializing either dimension. Rather he constantly engages the reader, revitalizes, and inspires one to want to transform oneself and the world. Is there anything more to ask for?"--Professor David Cohen, College of Social Work, Justice, and Public Affairs, Florida International University and co-author of Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Drugs

"A distinct pleasure. A thoughtful, compassionate and refreshingly humble look at what we call depression--well-written, easy-to-read, original--a philosophical treatise on the nature of 'being,' what it means to be alive, and the debilitating nature of our corporate society. It prompts the reader to embrace a much more expansive notion of what might be considered a 'normal' range of emotions."
--Robert Whitaker, winner of the George Polk Award for Medical Writing and author of Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (October 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933392711
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933392714
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #881,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The reviews here for this book so far have been pretty detached and impersonal. I'm now going to provide a personal account. I do not say this lightly: This book saved my life.

Last year I picked up Bruce Levine's "Surviving America's Depression Epidemic" at Barnes & Noble as a sort of impulse buy. I was scouring the self-help/psychology section during what was probably my worst depressive episode of my entire life. I don't know what possessed me to pick this particular book. I seriously wasn't expecting much. I wasn't actually familiar with the author and the title itself is sort of hokey-sounding. I was prepared for nothing more than a superficial rewording of stuff that I'd already heard a million times or some crackpot theory. However, as soon as I got past the title and started on the introduction, I realized I was reading something very different. Dr. Levine's book is well-written, well-researched (the last 24 or so pages of the book consists of copious bibliographical notes), and well-designed. But it isn't just rehashing of old information with a new wrapper. Levine culls much insight out of the available research on not only the nature of what we call "depression" but also into the way we live.

What most struck me was that Levine absolutely refuses to oversimplify the problem of depression. He tackles the issues from an expansive sociological framework that puts what clinical psychology labels as an "illness" into a wider historical, social, and personal context. His thesis is as follows (quoting from the Introduction itself):

"Americans live in the age of industrialized medicine, and everyone - inside and outside of health care - is now in the same boat.
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Format: Paperback
Bruce Levine does two radical things in this book: he questions the psychiatric profession and looks at depression in the context of American Society. He does this even-handedly and with great care.

He begins by providing an overview of anti-depression drugs, citing considerable evidence that these drugs are not effective. For example, a survey of 47 drug-company sponsored studies published by the American Psychological Association found that "the anti-depressant failed to outperform a sugar-pill." Another study from Duke University found exercise to be more effective in treating depression than Zoloft.

Levine looks at what science knows about the brain and depression. He tells us that despite all the drugs and modern therapy, people in this country are more depressed than ever. He cites one study, for example, that found Mexican-Americans born in the U.S. have depression rates three times higher than recent immigrants from Mexico. Those same immigrants, after just 13 years in the country, catch up to the native-born Americans in their rate of depression.

Levine then looks at how our culture contributes to our unusually high rates of depression. "Technology is all about control, and the more Americans singularly worship technology, the more we singularly worship control," he writes. "Our society is increasingly dominated by megatechnologies--huge, complex, technologies that most of us neither understand or can control." This loss of control is a key component of depression. Levine also discusses social isolation, cultural pressures to be perpetually happy, consumerism's failure to meet real human needs, and the American discomfort with difference, to mention just a few.

Most of the book is a discussion of how to be sane in a world "gone crazy." As someone who was once diagnosed with depression, I found the book honest, wise and helpful.
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I have just finished reading this book, and I am so grateful for every chapter. Other books on depression have left me feeling more confused, not less. I had read articles by Levine before and felt he was on point at analyizing why depressed people, including myself, are not being helped by current treatments. This book delivers valuable insights into how Big Pharma and its allies have won the minds, hearts and money of Americans. It also brilliantly takes to task America's skewed values - while offering energizing ideas for combating depression and crushed morale.
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Those who don't want to hear a critique of the mental health industry will find that much in this book makes them uncomfortable. The author challenges many attitudes of the mental health establishment that have been portrayed and widely accepted as fact. He discusses the partnership between the mental health industry and pharmaceutical companies, and shows how research, psychiatry/psychology education, and the business of pushing medication are intertwined and interdependent. If you don't want the underpinnings of your belief system about your illness questioned, you will not enjoy this book. Dr. Levine makes a thorough presentation of facts that appear to contradict the notion that depression or other mental disorders are either inherited or biologically-based. He also argues that while the bio-based position may have alleviated some of the social stigma of depression, it's replaced it with a kind of inherent-defectiveness stigma. Whether or not one believes in a biological or chemical basis for depression, there is a lot of wisdom here. Levine's primary focus is on the alienating aspects of our consumerist society, and various forms of inflexible, one-size-fits-nobody authoritarian bureaucracy (including education, corporate, and medical systems.) He argues that depression is a natural response to an essentially dehumanizing environment, in which we've lost our autonomy and access to real community. His remedy is to think about basic human needs and what we can do to contribute to our neighborhoods and meet those needs, joining with others to work toward common, life-enhancing goals. If drugs help you, Dr. Levine makes clear he has no argument with your choice to use them. What he's saying is that it should be a choice.Read more ›
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