Monday, September 26, 2011

Study Shows More Mental Illness, but Decline in Getting Help

From ABC News courtesy of the Huffington Post news wire:

Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, the study's author, said it's unclear whether the findings tell a sad story of greater psychological distress in recent times or point to a victory for public education about the importance of acknowledging and evaluating mental illness.

"It is possible that people are perceiving the effects of mental illness more acutely now than before," he said. "People could be becoming more aware."

Mojtabai said it's also possible that a number of factors could be taking a toll on the population's mental well-being. High unemployment, economic hardships and a growing sense of isolation could be putting greater stress on Americans.

More here.

You can put me firmly in the camp that believes there is much more depression and anxiety, rather than the appearance of more due to increased self-reporting. I mean, I'm sure greater public awareness of mental illness is definitely playing a role, but I'm also pretty sure the culture in which we now live, relative to all of human history, is far more likely to induce mental illness than cultures from bygone eras.

As Noam Chomsky has observed, when comparing poverty in the third world to poverty in the United States, the level of despair here is just off the charts--even though the poor elsewhere have hope for a better tomorrow, the poor here have no hope at all. But it's not just the poor. The whole damned culture has become toxic. Those of us lucky enough to have jobs tend to work so much that they have absolutely no time, or energy for that matter, to spend with their families, or as active participants in their communities. By making commerce the sole concern of the overall society, we have essentially destroyed the civil society.

Indeed, the entire notion of "community" has become something of a relic in the US: if the guy in the apartment upstairs or the house next door has a heart attack, it's not your problem. Homeless people aren't fellow citizens who are suffering; they're a nuisance. The early promise of internet substitutions for real world social contact turned out to be a bust; we may be in "contact" with our fellow Americans online, but while we're doing that, we're alone at home on our computers. We are continually bombarded with advertising and entertainment messages asserting that satisfaction comes from buying things we don't really need, but that's gotten us into heavy debt, and all that bullshit we bought, no surprise, did not satisfy us.

We don't have access to health care. All the good jobs are gone. The next generation will be less prosperous than this one. Actually, my generation already is less prosperous than our parents' generation was at the same point in their lives. Politics, on both sides of the aisle, is all about fear mongering. Global warming is destroying the planet. There is absolutely nothing on the horizon that could make us imagine that things might improve in the future.

Is it any wonder that we are seeing increased rates of depression and anxiety? Fear and sadness are extraordinarily reasonable reactions under the circumstances. What really sucks is that, instead of treating the cause, a sick and dehumanizing social situation, we're treating the symptoms, Americans who have been sickened and dehumanized. Of course, it's an economic boon for the therapy and pharmaceutical industries, but it's no cure. The only cure is to create a society where we put human beings first. Not profits.

It makes me more sad and afraid to know that this will probably never happen.