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Cognitive Therapy After the Great Depression for the Community of Cannery Row Essay

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Updated: Jun 9th, 2021

Introduction to the Topic

The period of the Great Depression can be considered the most impactful economic downturn in the history of the United States and the world as a whole. Its influence on all parts of human lives was enormous with millions of people losing their jobs and financial stability (Granados and Diez Roux 17290). As a result, the mental health of the individuals who were affected by the stock market crash and the following events suffered as well.

The rates of suicide increased, and the levels of mortality coincided with those of unemployment, as people were lost hope of ever getting back to the same level of prosperity (Granados and Diez Roux 17291). Thus, one can see that this period was characterized by significant mental distress.

The stories of these people are depicted in the novel Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Although fictional, the characters in Cannery Row live during the Great Depression, and the audience is introduced to multiple men who take their lives. In fact, the description of death in this novel is not sensationalized – the author portrays a scene where a man shoots himself not as a rare event, but as a part of gruesome reality (Mumford 147). This decision is not accidental – Steinbeck, while focusing on the positive behaviors of people, acknowledged the reality of the country’s economic position. Furthermore, he also revealed the issues that some people did not know how to address.

It can be assumed from the links between the statistics of suicide and the US’ financial problems during the Great Depression that many people were under significant stress at that time. Granados and Diez Roux show that suicide was the only major cause of death that increased in the years of economic depression (see fig. 1). Therefore, it is clear that their mental health had suffered greatly. Here, the main idea for this research project lies – to which extent therapy and counseling can help people affected by the Great Depression.

In the novel, Steinbeck does not consider the possibility that his characters may ask for support from a psychologist. The lack of interest in mental health, however, is not surprising. According to Chen and Dagher, adults, especially men, are hesitant to reflect on their mental health or ask for clinical support (188). In the 1930s, this problem may have been present in society what did not pay attention to mental health in the same way as currently.

Crude mortality rate (per 100,000 population) for selected major causes of death
Fig. 1. Crude mortality rate (per 100,000 population) for selected major causes of death (Granados and Diez Roux 17292).

As an outcome, a hypothetical thesis arises that investigates the potential outcomes for the characters of Cannery Row. One can examine whether cognitive therapy, often used to treat depression and suicidal thoughts, could have helped the men in the novel to overcome their struggles and find a solution to their financial troubles. This research is based on a review of studies that present the effects of cognitive therapy on people. The central argument that the investigation aims to support is that cognitive therapy could have been useful for the characters of Cannery Row. A psychological intervention would provide them with a system of support and tools to reflect on their behaviors and thoughts, thus alleviating their depression.

Research Questions

The following questions can be formulated to guide the research:

  1. What are the main aims and uses of cognitive therapy?
  2. How can cognitive therapy help people affected by economic crises?
  3. Is mental health support a sufficient way of preventing suicide for people with economic problems?
  4. Would the characters of Cannery Row benefit from cognitive therapy?
  5. What may stop people in a similar situation from seeking help and how one can overcome such barriers?

Research Angles, Potential Sources, and Methodology

The basis of this study is academic research focused on the effects and applications of cognitive therapy. First of all, one has to describe this approach to mental health. Cognitive therapy is a version of psychotherapy offered to people with various mental health concerns. Its central belief is that people’s emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are interconnected and dependent on each other (Gu et al. 2).

Therefore, by influencing them, people can overcome their troubles and modify their worldview and perception (MacKenzie and Kocovski 127). This type of therapy requires active self-reflection from people since they need to analyze their thoughts and find a way to change them to reform their responses to stressful situations (Asarnow et al. 509). Cognitive restructuring for depression can be achieved through meditation, self-awareness, and recognition of harmful habits (van der Velden et al. 28). The main characteristics of cognitive therapy show that a person can approach this treatment with minimal resources which is helpful when discussing the period when people did not have any money or time for complex therapies.

In order to analyze the effects of cognitive therapy on people in a financial crisis, one can also employ studies that explore mental health changes during another period, the Great Recession. As Margerison-Zilko et al. show, economic problems impact mental well-being significantly, leading to higher rates of depression (87). Similarly, Cagney et al. demonstrate the dangers of overlooking health care services in helping adults to deal with their economic problems.

Finally, Norström and Grönqvist establish a link between the period as the Great Recession and suicide rates, showing how financial pressure and the lack of stability affect people’s mental health. As a result, one can observe that the methodology of a literature analysis is the most suitable way to address the developed research questions. It should be noted that the primary challenge in this study is the lack of information about mental health services during the Great Depression. Moreover, as it is a hypothetical thesis, the ideas are not concrete but exploratory in nature.

Goals

  1. Literature review – DEADLINE
  2. Analysis of selected sources – DEADLINE
  3. Synthesis of the main ideas and findings—DEADLINE
  4. Discussion of the results – DEADLINE
  5. Review of the draft – DEADLINE
  6. Finalization of the paper – DEADLINE

Conclusion

In his novel Cannery Row, Steinbeck blends inspiring ideas and the harsh reality of people living during the Great Depression. The glimpses of individuals’ financial struggles are dispersed through the book, and characters’ response to these issues is drastic and hopeless. Thus, one may wonder whether these people would benefit from a psychological intervention such as cognitive therapy.

It is apparent that this question cannot be addressed using the data from the discussed period. Nonetheless, one can collect the information about cognitive therapy and its effects as well as the findings from another similar economic crisis, the Great Recession. As a result, this study can show how economic struggles affect people’s lives and what can be done to limit their negative influence.

Works Cited

Asarnow, Joan Rosenbaum, et al. “Cognitive-Behavioral Family Treatment for Suicide Attempt Prevention: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 56, no. 6, 2017, pp. 506-514.

Cagney, Kathleen A., et al. “The Onset of Depression During the Great Recession: Foreclosure and Older Adult Mental Health.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 104, no. 3, 2014, pp. 498-505.

Chen, Jie, and Rada Dagher. “Gender and Race/Ethnicity Differences in Mental Health Care Use Before and During the Great Recession.” The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, vol. 43, no. 2, 2016, pp. 187-199.

Granados, José A. Tapia, and Ana V. Diez Roux. “Life and Death During the Great Depression.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 106, no. 41, 2009, pp. 17290-17295.

Gu, Jenny, et al. “How Do Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Improve Mental Health and Wellbeing? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Mediation Studies.” Clinical Psychology Review, vol. 37, 2015, pp. 1-12.

MacKenzie, Meagan B., and Nancy L. Kocovski. “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: Trends and Developments.” Psychology Research and Behavior Management, vol. 9, 2016, pp. 125-132.

Margerison-Zilko, Claire, et al. “Health Impacts of the Great Recession: A Critical Review.” Current Epidemiology Reports, vol. 3, no. 1, 2016, pp. 81-91.

Mumford, James. “Violence in John Steinbeck.” Steinbeck Review, vol. 10, no. 2, 2013, pp. 145-151.

Norström, Thor, and Hans Grönqvist. “The Great Recession, Unemployment and Suicide.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, vol. 69, no. 2, 2015, pp. 110-116.

van der Velden, Anne Maj, et al. “A Systematic Review of Mechanisms of Change in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in the Treatment of Recurrent Major Depressive Disorder.” Clinical Psychology Review, vol. 37, 2015, pp. 26-39.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Cognitive Therapy After the Great Depression for the Community of Cannery Row." June 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cognitive-therapy-after-the-great-depression-for-the-community-of-cannery-row/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Cognitive Therapy After the Great Depression for the Community of Cannery Row'. 9 June.

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