Depression is the most prevalent mental illness in the Western world. It is estimated that approximately 17% of the population in Western countries suffers from depression. Many of us find ourselves in a depressed mood from time to time because of various events such as the breakup of a relationship, being fired from work, the death of a close acquaintance, and so on, but these are temporary moods and their context is clear – in contrast to clinical depression, which usually has inherent, possibly unknown, causes.
The 2013 Social Survey conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics explored the mental and emotional state of respondents and the extent of support they feel they receive from their community.
The survey asked respondents whether they have felt depressed in the past year. In Jerusalem, 12% of those surveyed said they always or often feel depressed, and 33% said they sometimes feel depressed. These percentages are significantly higher than the figures for Tel Aviv and Israel: in Tel Aviv 7% of respondents said they often feel depressed, and an additional 27% said they sometimes feel depressed; in Israel as a whole these figures are 9% and 25% respectively. In Jerusalem 55% of respondents said that they rarely or never feel depressed, compared to 65% in Tel Aviv and Israel as a whole. However, when asked whether they felt they needed psychological counseling during the past year, only 7% responded in the affirmative, compared to 12% in Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The prevalence of depression varies significantly between men and women. Studies reveal that depression is twice as prevalent among women as opposed to men, but it is unclear what causes this disparity and whether it results from problems in diagnosis. Apparently the disparities between men and women in Jerusalem are not so great: the figure was comparable for women and men in Jerusalem (11%-12%) who reported feeling depressed always or often. A slightly higher proportion of women reported feeling depressed sometimes (36% versus 30%), and a higher proportion of Jerusalem men reported that they are never depressed (36% versus 29%). Among the three major cities, Haifa has the largest disparities between men and women: 8% of Haifa men reported feeling depressed always or often, compared to almost twice the figure for women (15%). A total of 13% of Haifa men reported that they sometimes feel depressed, compared to 32% of women.
Support and assistance from the community can significantly help a depressed person cope with feelings of depression, and can also help someone who is likely to become depressed. A distinct majority of people turn to their partner for emotional support, but some also turn to parents and friends. In Jerusalem nearly half of those surveyed said that they would turn to their partner for support, 16% said they would turn to their parents, and 15% would turn to a friend. The rest said they would turn to their children or to another family member or professional. Here, too, there are differences between men and women: Jerusalem women tend to turn to their children more often when seeking emotional support, whereas Jerusalem men actually tend to turn to their parents.
In Tel Aviv as well, about half of those surveyed responded that they would turn to their partner for emotional support, while only 7% reported that they would turn to their parents (less than half the figure for Jerusalem), and 20% said they would turn to a friend. Tel Aviv women tend to turn to their children or another family member for support, whereas the men tend to turn to their partner.
For all those who are depressed, despondent, grieving, or forsaken, we hope that, in the words of poet Lea Goldberg, “the pathways of sorrow will come to an end.”