Thursday, August 16, 2012
The Frightening Rise of Mental Illness in America
In the 1950’s, when I was a boy growing up in Chicago, mental illness was spoken of in whispers. There was fear that a stigma might be associated with “Aunt Mary’s emotional problems” or “Uncle Bill’s unusual behavior.” You simply did not talk about such problems outside the family. So little was understood about mental illness. One thing was certain; you most definitely did not want to marry into a family that had inherited mental illness. That, by the way is one of the reasons why arranged marriages were the standard in so many old world cultures.
We have come a long way, and things are now more open. Perhaps that is because so many more people seem to have emotional problems. How many forms of mental illness have been labeled in the modern era? The more labels we create, the more cases we diagnose and the numbers keep on increasing and increasing. Medicines for those illnesses keep on increasing too. Many of them actually are helpful. Other medicines just seem to drug the patients so that they are more docile and thus far easier to control in institutional settings.
In the late 1980’s prior to Prozac hitting the market and the current mass use of antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs, the mental illness disability rate in the US was 1 in every 184 Americans After 2006 the mental illness disability rate had more than doubled to 1 in every 76. That is a hell of a lot of people drawing Social Security disability benefits.
It almost makes you wonder if the rate of reported mental illness and associated disability has increased to keep up with all of the pills out there. If you look at it more closely, you can see that the disability numbers increased in nearly perfect step with our society’s increased use of psychiatric medications.
With that in mind, are they doing any significant good in resolving problems and disabilities? Are psychiatric medications helping alter the long-term course of mental disorders? Do they increase the likelihood that a person will be able to function well over the course of treatment, or do they increase the likelihood that a person will end up on permanent disability? And then the biggest question comes up, and that is “Are the medicines actually creating additional psychiatric disorders?”
My wife and I raised thirty children. We had our own kids, adopted kids, waifs that we picked up along the way and even some long term foster children. About one in four was on Ritalin (Speed) for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Supposedly, the Ritalin works in the exact opposite manner in the ADHD kids and slows them down so that they can concentrate and actually learn in a classroom environment. Given to so called “normal” kids, it would have them bouncing off of the walls. I have seen and can attest to the fact that it calms the ADHD kids down and helps them become better students. This use of Ritalin has been going on for the past three decades. I have noted in some of the kids who used it that now, in adulthood they have BiPolar problems. We used to call it Manic Depressive disorder because the people so afflicted would have Manic states where they were elated, and full of energy and then Depressed states where they could not get out of bed in the morning. So I wonder if the use of Speed in elementary school is creating a nation of BiPolar adults?
I do not have the answer; I’m just asking the question. Is the cure for one problem creating many other additional problems?