Difficult Happiness. Modern Depression and Finnish Contemporary Culture
Rowena Dugdale, Treatment of depression with Prozac, Wellcome Images

Research group

This group works together and investigates the history of depression in Finland from the 1980's onwards. We focus on

  • scientific education of professionals in the field of mental disorders and discourses of depression within that profession (Annastiina Mäkilä)
  •  the rise of "the depressed child" in the field of child psychiatry. How did the concern of depressed children and youth reach Finnish psychiatry? Which were the international influences? (Jutta Ahlbeck)
  • depression in autobiographies, how the experience of depression is communicated and  linked to childhood in Finnish depression autobiographies 1980s-2010s (Kirsi Tuohela)

 The aim of our research is to valorize the transformation of depression from the 1980's onwards. Depression as a diagnosis has become more common and medication for it has increased. The number of disability pensions due to depression has grown in number. We ask how these changes are related to scientific education of mental professionals, the rise of child depression and the lived experience of the sufferers during the last three decades.

The theoretical frame of "Difficult Happiness" consists of historical and critical happiness studies. Not only depression as a diagnosis and an experience have a history, but also happiness can be seen as being a historical construction.

In a way, the human search for happiness has always been with us in one way or another. But the ways in which these longings and pursuits look like, vary a lot. How the obstacles and forces that threaten our happiness, uncertainty and suffering are met, varies historically. Depression as a medical condition means suffering and a threat to both individual and national health, but we argue that it something more than a medical condition, it has psychological and social but also historical dimension. We address a question of it how depression relates to demands and guidelines of modern societies to be happy. Comparing to previous centuries we ask if modern societies are especially disabled to cope with misfortunes. Or is depression only an indicator that modern societies are particularly harsh and hard places to find happiness?