Mental health issues are a growing problem, across America and the rest of the world. The problem is twofold: while statistics suggest that the number of people suffering from mental health problems is growing at an alarming rate, another issue to be faced is the continuing stigma around admitting to and discussing the existence of mental illness. For young men especially, admitting that you are suffering from depression, anxiety, an eating disorder or any other kind of mental health condition is seen as a shameful weakness. But suffering in silence can only make the problem grow worse.
Of course, mental illness is no more shameful or a sign of weakness than chickenpox or a broken arm. Thankfully, the stigma is gradually being broken down, which may be one reason why the number of reported cases is rising. That is, mental illness is not on the rise as dramatically as it appears; it is just being admitted to and diagnosed more frequently.
Nevertheless, the increasing pressures of modern life cannot help but contribute to the problem. We all seem to be under so much more pressure and have so much more to worry about. The amount of information we have to process on a daily basis is massively greater than in our parents’ day, largely thanks to the ubiquity of the internet. This is both a blessing and a curse.
For instance, social media can create new social pressures, as people constantly compare their own real experienced lives to the carefully curated lives of their friends as presented online. But it can also provide a forum for people to talk openly about their emotions and their struggles, and to see that other people are in similar states to themselves. It is all about how responsibly we use the medium.
Modern technology can also help us deal with the increased mental stress of modern life. One example is the proliferation of mental health apps for our phones. While there are concerns about regulation and privacy, these can be a great boon as they allow us to self-manage our mental health, and give us the means to contact someone- a professional or a close friend or family member- from anywhere at any time, should a crisis arise or should we just need to talk.
Modern residential care establishments are also much improved compared to their sometimes austere predecessors. Newport Academy in Southern California provides live-in facilities for up to 12, 12-18 year olds, dealing with alcohol and drug issues, eating disorders, self-harm and so on. Equine-assisted psychotherapy and martial arts are included alongside a full program of schooling, therapies and exercise.
Although the young are especially at risk, mental health issues can affect anyone of any age. Ongoing research and the development of technology can help to manage or even cure many of these conditions. But increasing awareness, self-care and most importantly the ability to talk openly about the issues affecting us are just as important in treating this growing malaise in modern life.