Friday, September 5, 2014

Mental illness is on the increase: What are we doing wrong?

 DRAFT

According to many sources, as a nation and as a world, we are now going crazy. Some are not enjoying the trip, but who or what is to blame?




Web MD has called the increasing rate of this illness "staggering."  [http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20040601/rate-of-mental-illness-is-staggering]

The National Institute of Mental Health had this to say about the rate of mental illness:
 Severe, disabling mental illness has dramatically increased in the United States. “The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007 — from one in 184 Americans to one in 76. [http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/4COST_AM2006.shtml]

An explosion in the rate of mental illness has overtaken us, and now some articles are even blaming the increase on the victims! 


Much of the suffering, however, is the direct result of political decisions: For example, "Veterans are dealing with the consequences of serving in the military. Post traumatic stress disorder, depression, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and other mental illnesses continue to devastate soldiers long after they return from war." http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Top_Story&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=150635

The wars, however, are only part of the picture:  Businesses and institutions place workers at greater risk of mental illness than ever before, then in some cases blame the victims and follow up by denying claims for disability insurance.  But more on that in minute.

Denying services

Eighty six percent of initial claims for Social Security Disability were denied in 2006. and the rate of all applications accepted fell from almost 52 percent in 1999, down to as low as 27 percent in 2014. [http://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/dibStat.html

In other words, you or someone you know is far more likely to suffer mental illness than in the past, and at the same time the odds of your being accepted for Disability Insurance has dropped to about half.

Predictably, some people question whether these people are really as ill as they claim. Others are calling the illness a symptom of rebellion, or even describing it as "hype." 


What a denial of the facts!

Nobody wants to claim responsibility, as if an epidemic of mental disorders "just happens." Or as if it is faked somehow, or a mere matter of reporting errors. Those arguments make no sense to me at all.

It seems to me that our social system has taken a right curve that is putting national and international health in jeopardy. 

It is a double whammy, whereby, workers are placed under increasing pressure by global economic forces, while being denied claims for services at a higher rate.  In a classic case of blaming the victim, some sources are claiming that the epidemic is merely due to "over-diagnosis, pathologizing the normal, and psychiatric drug adverse effects."

Giving the victims a break

The takeover of society by global industries, and an increasingly competitive environment for rank and file citizens -- from elementary school to job to college to career -- is beginning to taking its toll, in my opinion. Industries have reached or perhaps passed the point of diminishing returns. There is a limit on how much pressure you can put people under and still have them survive and thrive. 

Global economic powers squeeze more and more productivity out of citizens while giving them  less in return. Then, when Americans ask for a fair share of the profits, they are accused of participating in a class war (robbing the rich) or of promoting the redistribution of wealth, as if that would be a bad thing.


Wake up call

While the cost of mental health is spiraling out of control, we need to deal with the fact that we, as societies -- as systems --  are doing this to people, rather than to blame the victims and push them under the buss. As things are, the epidemic is draining our bank accounts and dooming some of us to choose between poverty and treatment.

As of 2006, Americans were spending almost $ 60 billion per year on mental health services, so some people are undoubtedly getting rich off of this epidemic, while those suffering the illness may face financial ruin: But this does not begin to account for the costs to the economy due to loss of time at work, interrupted educations and so-on. 



 Contributing factors that are often skirted by institutional reporting

There is a reasonable amount of school, work, and societal stress to which a population can be subjected before the negative effects start to pile up. 

Beginning with Ronald Reagan era's bogus report of "A Nation at Risk" due to supposedly failing schools, the movers and shakers have put the squeeze on students and workers worldwide, to do more for less, and more with less, while the richest businesses and industries have been earning more for doing less, considering the harm that their policies have done, for example, reducing or eliminating pensions, pitting American workers against workers in impoverished nations, and passing laws that have had the effect of defeating unions. Yet they keep applying more pressure on Yertle (the turtle at the bottom of the pond).

Again, the point of diminishing returns applies.

As my mom used to say, "You can't get blood out of a turnip."


Note: The above is a revised copy of my Facebook post of 09/04/2014

 #mentalhealth #mentalillness

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