Mental health has become a massive issue in the present. It tends to disturb so many people, especially the young minds, who are supposed to be the future and lead us into it. It is absurd how people have not taken the same seriously for such a long time and how it was a taboo to talk about it.
The pace of society is crushing some people today and that causes their equilibrium to become wobbly to the point of mental Illness. As America’s population ages, the need for mental and behavioral health services continues to increase. Psychologists are studying and treating the mental and behavioral problems associated with growing old, such as loss of a spouse, loss of mobility and independence, admittance to a long-term care facility and declining physical and sometimes mental health. Some of the most critical concerns facing older Americans today are highlighted below.
- Mental Health Concerns: Twenty percent of people over 55 suffer from a mental disorder, and 2/3rds of nursing home residents exhibit mental and behavioral problems. Yet, less than 3% of older adults report seeing a mental health professional for their problems.
- Depression and Suicide: As many as 20% of older adults in the community and up to 37% of nursing home residents suffer from depression, a condition that may lead to suicide.
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia: Dementia, the irreversible deterioration of intellectual ability–often accompanied by emotional disturbances- afflicts as many as 7% of Americans over the age of 65 and 30% over age 85. People with dementia often suffer from depression, paranoia, and anxiety.
- Substance Abuse: Alcohol abuse is a major problem for older Americans and is one of the eight leading causes of death for older persons. Five percent (5%) of older men and 1% of older women have alcohol abuse and dependency problems, which lead to malnutrition, cirrhosis of the liver, osteomalacia, and a decline in cognitive functioning.
- Chronic Illnesses: 85% of older adults have at least one chronic illness: Almost 50% have arthritis, 40% have hypertension, 30% have heart disease, 12% have diabetes, 30% have hearing loss, 15% cataracts and 10% have a stroke.
Even though stigma has eased considerably in the past
But, I think the difference that makes a difference in how our brains cope with life has to do with the way we live.
Not so long ago many generations of a family would live in the same house or apartment—wisdom and shared responsibilities mitigated a lot of stress and prevented a crisis. We have completely changed the availability of our support network the way we live our personal lives now. I am all for women’s rights so I am not knocking women for working. But, the traditional marriage of our grandparents’ generation and the generations before them split responsibilities between home and work. Dual income households earn more money but balancing the responsibilities between life and family are skewed against succeeding without significant stress and sacrifice—each parent has twice the responsibility to handle effectively with half the time. Parents and children often live in different cities and states after the children grow up meaning that not only is support not immediate, but it is more likely delayed at best and cost prohibitive in a worst-case scenario.
We incorrectly put independence at the pinnacle of our success model which is an admirable goal, but somewhere along the drive toward independence has taken a wrong turn and become defined as separation. Technology separates us from others; our civic outlooks have moved away from being defined by a sense of inclusion and belonging in a community to the opposite of being defined by exclusivity and self-importance. We have moved away from kindness in general and more toward entitlement. It’s not as bleak a shift as it sounds but it is a fundamental shift from how our ancestors lived a century ago.
Our culture is not a culture of celebrating good things it’s a culture of celebrity and cynicism. So we now look for faults in ourselves and others. Most people I know don’t give themselves a chance to really savor a victory, instead, they barrel past the milestones at a breakneck pace because it isn’t enough to satisfy them. We drive ourselves relentlessly to keep up with the Jones’. We are desperate to find ways to fill this gaping, chronic lack of worth and inner fulfillment.
It’s a matter of perspective I think. In the past 30 years, all of the knowledge in the world is at our fingertips instantaneously; internet/tv/gaming/3D entertainment has changed the way we sense and take in the world in ways that none of our progenitors could have imagined. We are so connected we have become disconnected; our family unit has shifted from tight-knit extended family units to isolated immediate family units; no one before us has ever tried to cope with as much information overload and overcommitment as we do on a regular basis.
None of these things is inherently negative, but I think we are the unwitting souls in the midst of one of the most massive anthropological shifts in the history of mankind. We have experienced change on such a massive scale the only thing we can do is react, try to keep up and fight like hell to keep our heads above water. I think you notice more mention of mental illness because our brains weren’t prepared for the dramatic changes in how we use our brains.
I think more people experience symptoms in their mental health but they are more than likely not aware of it. It is possible we will see more mention or acceptance of situational mental illness from prolonged stress and the cumulative effects of negative thinking. If we can get to the point where we see this more like our brains catching a cold I think we can normalize people Actual lifelong mental illness is not likely to change from what it is now about 1%-3% of the total population.