Johann Hari's "Lost Connections" Revolutionizes The Discussion Around Depression

Johann Hari's "Lost Connections" Revolutionizes The Discussion Around Depression

"You need your nausea. You need your pain. It is a message, and we must listen to that message."

Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan

"You need your nausea. You need your pain. It is a message, and we must listen to that message."

In this quote, Johann Hari revolutionized my view of depression.

In my circles, we're often told that depression is the result of a biochemical imbalance of serotonin, that we're depressed because there's something wrong with our brains, and something wrong with us.

Lost Connections is a book that delves deeply into dismantling the belief of depression as solely a neuroscience or purely psychological phenomenon, something that can only be fixed using SSRIs and antidepressants. No, it is much more than that. The subtitle for the book is "uncovering the real causes of depression -- and the unexpected solutions." Hari talks a lot about the biopsychosocial model, the approach that combines biological, psychological, and social factors into a person's mental and physical health. He gives anecdotal experiences of his experiences as a journalist walking with people suffering from depression.

Critics of Hari say that the book oversells himself, that it gives the message that it's a "totally new take on depression," and those critiques are valid. But Hari, in Lost Connections, is speaking of his own perspectives, experiences, and personal Odyssey. This is the story of one person dismantling his the false beliefs that harmed him and didn't work for him, and we should read the book based on his personal testimony and experiences. Hari himself suffered depression since he was a kid, and started taking antidepressants as a teenager. "He was told that his problems were caused by a chemical imbalance in his brain..and he learned that almost everything we have been told about depression is wrong."

I've written at length about Hari's work, an article in The Guardian that sent the clear and validating message I needed to hear at the time: depression isn't a sign that you're crazy. It's not a sign that something's wrong with you. It's a sign that your needs aren't being met, and you need to find ways to fulfill those needs.

That solution, in Lost Connections, is, unsurprisingly, connection. The causes of depression are a lack of depression, and Hari has. identified nine leading causes of depression. These include disconnection from meaning work, disconnection with meaningful values, disconnection from other people, and disconnection from meaningful trauma.

Reading this book, I will admit that I, as a reader, was tempted to think "no shit, Johann, everyone knows this from experience," but Hari's exploration into his personal anecdotes and experiences with both communities and experts convinced me to clap in applause at his excellent reporting and journalistic efforts. He ventures from a bike shop in Baltimore to an Amish community in Indiana to an uprising in a housing project in Berlin, and has helped transform our narrative and debate around addiction in necessary and compelling ways.

The language of big pharma and psychopharmacology have a monopoly over our discussion of mental illness, addiction, and depression. The message that our pain is unnatural, that it's crazy is a harmful and extremely damaging message to hold. Yes, antidepressants work for people. They save lives, but in no world should we act like they're the only solution. As Hari notes, "We need to stop trying to muffle or silence or pathologize that pain. Instead, we need to listen to it, and honor it." We need to listen to our pain so we can see the sources of where it comes from, and embark on the hard path to overcome it.

The more attention Lost Connections and the work of Johann Hari gets, the more I believe the world will be a better place. That isn't to say that Hari is right all the time, but that we will start having the discussions necessary to creating a more healthy and just society.

Hari echoes an important message I have found in my relationship with God and my faith: it is not wrong to suffer. It is not unnatural to suffer. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and his work has led me to be grateful and learn lessons from the ways profound suffering has impacted my life. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I believe that life is 10 percent about what happens, and 90 percent about how we react to it. The transfiguration of our suffering and lament into hope and joy is our personal resurrections, and that is a message that Hari has captured in Lost Connections.

During my three Easter Services that I attended, I came away with a lot of thoughts, but I came away predominantly with the internal conflict that I need to let something in my life I'm holding onto die, as Jesus Christ did on Good Friday. And I also came away with the message that I need to let something in my life resurrect, as Jesus did on Easter Sunday.

I will be lying if I said I have definitive answers to those soul-searching questions. But one thing is for damn sure: I have to let these discussions and the pursuit to love kindness and seek justice, as Micah 6:8 urges us, to go on. Hari has aided me substantially in those missions, and I believe Lost Connections will lead you into the necessary soul-searching for your life questions, too.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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The Lazy Girl's Guide To The Gym

Also, everything else you should know if you're a slightly out-of-shape girl (like me).


With my freshman year coming to an end, I realized a lot of things. I made new friends, I found new hobbies, and I learned a lot of lessons. One of them being that the "Freshman 15" is very real and very scary.

While my friends and family have attempted multiple times to convince me that I'm just being dramatic (I am), I still want to make a change in my lifestyle or I will, in all seriousness, be on track to the "Sophomore 20".

Here is a list of my best gym and healthy lifestyle tips that I am slowly attempting to live by this summer in order to resurrect Emily's 18-year-old body and health.

1. Increase water intake.

2. Find a gym buddy.

3. Start off with cardio.

4. Don't stop on your cardio until you're dripping in sweat.

5. Chug a LOT of water an hour before the gym.

Do not do it right before, or you will be in pain.

6. Eat light beforehand but just enough to hold you over. 

7. Plan out what your routine will be BEFORE you get there.

My routine: Elliptical for a mile, Stairmaster for 10 minutes, ab HIIT workout for 10 minutes, 5 more minutes on Stairmaster.

8. Buy healthy foods while you're feeling motivated.

9. Find a gym that isn't too far from your house. 

10. Don't get mad at yourself if you don't see results in a day.

I know this is a hard one.

11. Try fitness classes. 

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