Americans and mental health issues

Published 6:10 am Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Has America simply gone crazy? We never want to think that we are a bit crazy or that people we love are experiencing craziness but it is reality. America has an overwhelming problem with craziness or I should say mental health issues.

Over a 12-month period, 27 percent of adults in the U.S. will experience some sort of mental health disorder, making the U.S. the country with the highest prevalence. Mental health disorders include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and substance abuse. Over one’s entire lifetime, the average American has a 47.4 percent chance of having some kind of mental health disorder. Yes, that’s almost one in two. The projected lifetime prevalence is even higher: for people who reach age 75 it is 55 percent. World Health Organization data does not take into account eating disorders, personality disorders, and schizophrenia; the incidence of these disorders together is about 15 percent in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

The incidence of mental health disorders varies widely across the globe, and determining the patterns is tricky. After the U.S., Ukraine, Colombia, New Zealand, Lebanon, and France have the next highest rates of mental health disorders of any kind, all falling between 18.9 percent and 21.4 percent in a 12-month period. Japan, the People’s Republic of China, Nigeria, and Israel have the lowest rates (between 6.0 percent and 7.4 percent), especially for depression. For substance abuse, the U.S. is up there, but not the highest: We are topped by South Africa and Ukraine. As with the U.S., when you look at lifetime prevalence in any country, the risk for any disorder goes way up.

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Despite ongoing research, the predictors of mental health disorders are still evasive, even for the most common, like depression. While a nation’s wealth factor would seem to have an impact, it’s clear from the data that the relationship is complex. Ron Kessler, Ph.D., the Harvard researcher who headed much of the WHO’s mental health research, says that by and large people in less-developed countries are less depressed: After all, he says, when you’re literally trying to survive, who has time for depression? Americans, on the other hand, many of whom lead relatively comfortable lives; blow other nations away in the depression factor, leading some to suggest that depression is a “luxury disorder.”

There is a zero cure for mental health issues. However, here are some suggestions for improvement. Have a daily schedule. Get up and go to bed routinely. Get adequate sleep but you don’t need more than seven to eight hours. Engage in meaningful activity daily. Work a job. Work in a garden. Clean your house. Mow grass. Pull weeds. Go to school. Have some type of daily exercise. Breaking a little sweat every day is healthy. Engage in meaningful relationships at church, a club, work or with friends and family. We all need real people in our lives. Limit your technology, television and social media time. Too much can drain and depress you.

If you have mental illness or family members suffering from mental illness get it out on the table and start talking about coping, a strategic plan, counseling and working together to make life manageable. Ignoring it only results in everybody going crazy.

Dr. Glenn Mollette is president of Newburgh Theological Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana, and his syndicated column is read in all 50 states. Contact him at Learn more at Like his facebook page at Credits: World Health Organization and The Atlantic.