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Forced Depression

In my unit, and many other housing units across the state, we are forced into a state of major depression. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), states that five or more symptoms (e.g. depressed mood, diminished interest in activity, weight loss or gain, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt, diminished ability to think or concentrate, and recurrent thoughts of death) need to be present to diagnose individuals with major depressive disorder. I contend that every man that has lived in units like mine during the COVID-19 quarantine could be diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

We are forced to be depressed because we are stuck in our rooms with only a bed to lay in and toilet to crap in. Our interest in activity is diminished because we are unable to participate in any activities. Weight loss is forced upon us by lower portions of food, lower quality of food and limited canteen privileges. Hypersomnia is forced upon us because we can only pace our small shared cell or lay in our bunk (a common phrase in prison is “lay down and get some time served”). Psychomotor agitation is forced upon us because pacing is the only way we can exercise, and our whole life is not only slowed down, but brought to a screeching halt. Fatigue is forced upon us because laying in the bed for long periods of time causes sleepiness. We feel worthless because our existence seems to be serving no purpose. We feel inappropriate guilt because being locked in our rooms is usually lock down and we equate this with punishment. Our ability to concentrate is diminished because the only thing we can think about is getting out of these cells and the impending dangers of COVID. Reoccurring thoughts of death are a common response to all of the symptoms mentioned above.

This leaves no symptom unchecked, and therefore, we are being forced into a Major Depressive Disorder by the South Carolina Department of Corrections. If this continues, a plan needs to be in place for the men in these units to have out of cell recreation and to go outside to feel the weather. We have missed the entire summer and will be shocked to see that the temperature has changed. The current situation is dangerous for our mental health, for our social environment, for employees’ safety, and society as a whole.

This article was written by a man dealing with extreme levels of anxiety and depression in the height of the pandemic lock downs. You can feel the frustration as he pens these words. Please like and share this article if it provoked you to think about the state of mass incarceration. There are dorms all across South Carolina that remain locked down for the majority of time. This is an area that needs the attention of the public.

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1 Comment

Excellent points!

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