If you've looked at the news lately, you've likely noticed that there is a lot going on in the world of mental health. It can be hard to understand, especially if it's not something that you're used to seeing, but in recent years it has become obvious that mental health issues are more prevalent in the United States than in any other country on the planet. Why is this the case? What is so different about the United States that it seems to be "that much worse" when it comes to mental health struggles? In this post, we're going to explore those concepts and more in order to gain a further understanding of the world of mental health in the United States and the changing landscape that seems to be happening in this area of health.
Is There a Problem in Our Country?
The short answer to this question is, yes, there does seem to be an issue in our country that is different than in other countries. Here are some of the main reasons that mental illness seems to be more prevalent in the United States than it is in other countries in the world.
Mental health issues have a lot of stigma behind them. One of the biggest issues in our country is the stigma. There are so many people that worry about how mental illness is stigmatized and a lot of people will not seek out the help that they need because they're so ashamed of having the mental illness. Because of that, everything just continues to get worse and people actually add on other diagnoses because their mental health starts to snowball. When people start to get treatment, they actually start to see a lot of relief for their symptoms, but until then, their multiple diagnoses add to the prevalence that we see.
The assumption that mental illness is chronic and untreatable. Some people suffer through their mental illness and don't get treatment because they don't think that they can get treatment. Because of this, people are "stuck" in their mental health struggles and thus still fall under the diagnoses that we are talking about here. Yes, some mental illness is chronic, but that doesn't mean that all is lost and that one should give up because they're worried that they aren't going to be able to be treated in a way that gives them relief.
Lack of satisfaction. Now we're getting past the diagnoses and we're starting to look at why they happen in the first place. One thing that is absolutely chronic in the United States is that people are unhappy with who they are and what they are doing on a regular basis. Satisfaction and pleasure with life are two things that are really hard to find for some people, especially if they are still looking to live a dream (or "The American Dream") that is out of reach. People are incredibly competitive in our country too, and the general feeling of dissatisfaction that we have with ourselves and others can lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety. It's hard to notice this one sometimes, but it can play a significant role in mental illness.
Lack of leisure time in our society as a whole. Stress is a big thing in American society, and it's very different in other countries. In European countries, they require you to take no less than 4 weeks (and in some countries, up to 8!) off every single year, whereas in the United States (unless you're a teacher or in another career that is seasonal), you are usually restricted to about 2 weeks of vacation time. Yikes. That difference in leisure time, plus the "Protestant Work Ethic" make it really hard for people to relieve their stress in healthy ways. Stress is bad for both your physical and your mental health, and if you aren't getting it cared for properly, it can cause a lot of issues in the long run.
Troubles with the family unit. Even though family problems happen all over the world, the family unit in the United States has been struggling for a long while. Divorces, children being born to single mothers, and every other type of family issue under the sun makes it hard for kids to feel safe and secure in their environment, thus making it hard for them to grow up with their mind healthy. Some mental health issues start to show up in childhood, and if they aren't dealt with early on, they can become much more of a problem when the child grows up and goes into their adulthood.
Is it Because We Know More Now?
Of course, this other question comes up whenever we start talking about mental illness on the whole. Is there more of a prevalence of mental illness in the United States because we actually know what things are called now? Instead of just blowing "odd" behavior off, we have names for these things and we are better able to both diagnose and treat them. This is definitely a distinct possibility for a few reasons.
First off, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which is used for diagnosing mental illness, is always expanding and changing every time that it is printed. Obviously, some things are being removed at times (homosexuality being one of the main ones that has been removed in recent editions), but there are always new diagnoses and new research that shows exactly what is going on in the world of mental health. Honestly, some of the reasons that it may be more prevalent is because we actually have names for things now, and people aren't just left thinking that there is something wrong with them without knowing what the name of it is. This is definitely a good thing, because the more we know, the more we will find and the more that people can get treated appropriately, which is incredibly important for full recovery and in order for people to live the full and healthy life that they want and honestly, deserve, to live.
Medical Doctors Diagnosing
Another reason is because more and more doctors are becoming capable of seeking out and finding mental illness. Yes, mental health professionals are always the best resource for diagnosing mental illness, but more and more medical doctors are learning the signs of mental illness and making it easier for people to find out that there may be a problem. Doctors are more willing to recommend that their patients go see a mental health professional if they see signs of a problem. They are also more willing to give recommendations, which helps keep people more at ease when it comes to these sorts of situations. In short, the medical field in general is becoming more perceptive of it, which is making it easier for people to be diagnosed properly and get the treatment that they need in order to thrive and get through their mental health issues.
Fighting the Stigma
Lastly, even with the stigma, there is a small population of people that have broken out of that way of thinking and are getting the help that they need, therefore making sure that they are diagnosed correctly and adding to the numbers that we see. Yes, mental health is stigmatized, which is what I was talking about in the first section, but some people have the bravery to say "I don't deserve to live like this, so I'm going to move forward and live the life that I want to live by getting the help that I need." Because more and more people are fighting the stigma, diagnoses are happening and more people are getting the help that they need in a healthy and safe manner. It's a win-win.
All that being said, there is definitely evidence for an increase in prevalence, but there is also an argument to be made that more people are actually able to figure out what is going on. Could it be a mixture of both of these things? Absolutely - nothing is in a vacuum, and once you look at all of the possible factors you can get a bigger picture of what is going on and what can be done about it. It is difficult to see the prevalence of mental illness increase, but it's good that more people are out there getting the help that they need in a healthy and effective manner.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of factors that play into the increase in prevalence in mental illness in the United States. But no matter what the results may be of these sorts of studies, it's important that people get the right help for their mental illnesses. It can be hard to get the help that you need, but with the help of a qualified mental health professional, you will find that it's much easier for you to work through your mental illness and come to terms with it. Here at Theravive, we've got plenty of resources that you can use in order to find the mental health resources that you need - check it out for yourself and get started on your journey toward wholeness and wellness.
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