Nearly half of Americans will experience mental health problems in their lives, according to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. And about 25% of adults in America reported having a mental illness (defined as a diagnosable mental disorder that has substantially interfered with, or limited, one or more major life activities) in the past year, the agency says. What's going on here? These are "unacceptably high levels," says Ileana Arias, principal deputy director of the CDC. But the issue of why rates are so high is still a mystery.
Could mental illness-blame toxins in the environment or modern life or what you will-really be increasing in America? Or is it just a matter of growing diagnosis and awareness? I read a memoir a few weeks ago by the revered British editor Diana Athill, and though she recounts episode after episode of what sounds like textbook-case depression and ADHD, Athill attributes all these things to her 'character' or personality, never mentioning a mental 'illness,' disease or disorder. It's a little simplistic to say, oh, we used to be sad, now we're 'depressed,' we used to be scatterbrained, now we have an 'attention deficit'-but that has to play a part in it, don't you think?Regardless of the cause, mental illness is definitely no longer a fringe issue. Whether more Americans are suffering from mental issues now than in the past, or simply more are are aware of and/or willing to talk about these issues can be debated, but it doesn't change the fact that there are more people out there claiming and getting treated for mental health issues. That's kind of a big deal-and one that I think both our insurance systems and our ways of talking about and portraying mental illness are struggling to keep up with.
Image: Proto Mag