Why Mental Health Is Getting Worse


Counseling has been used as material for popular books, podcasts, and films about mental health issues. Politicians, celebrities, and professional athletes frequently discuss their mental health issues in the media. And whether intentionally or not, everyone is using therapeutic jargon in their chats, bringing up topics like gaslighting, toxic relationships, and boundaries.

According to the most current official estimates, one in eight U.S. individuals now take an antidepressant, and one in five have recently gotten some type of mental-health care, an increase of about 15 million people in treatment since 2002. These statistics reflect all this widespread knowledge. Even recently, from 2019 to 2022, the number of American individuals with commercial insurance who used mental health treatments increased by approximately 40%.

But something doesn’t seem right. The state of mental health in the United States is deteriorating on several fronts even as more individuals seek therapy.Since 2000, there has been a 30% increase in suicide rates. About three times as many U.S. people as in 2019 currently report having either depression or anxiety symptoms, and one in every 25 individuals suffers from a major mental disease like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Just 31% of American individuals believed their mental health to be “excellent” as of late 2022, down from 43% two decades earlier.

Even though more individuals are seeking treatment, trends are heading in the wrong direction. “That’s not true for diabetes [diagnosis], heart disease [survival], cancer [survival], or pretty much any other field of medicine. Numerous influences, some beneficial and some harmful, are at work. Positively, as mental health becomes more accepted and stigmatized, more individuals feel comfortable seeking treatment, leading to an overall increase in the number of people receiving diagnoses and treatments for mental-health concerns.

Following social upheavals like the pandemic and the Great Recession, more individuals appear to be struggling, increasing pressure on an already overburdened system to the point that some people are unable to access the help they desire or need. However, other professionals think the problem extends far further than a lack of access, all the way to the fundamental roots of contemporary psychiatry. They believe that the problem is not just that demand is exceeding supply, but also that supply was never really enough to begin with, relying on treatments and pharmaceuticals that barely scratch the surface of a vast ocean of need. Doctors utilize objective data to construct their diagnosis and treatment recommendations in the majority of medical disciplines. In the event that your biopsy reveals malignant cells, you may begin chemotherapy. If your blood pressure is excessive, you will be prescribed a hypertension medication.

There aren’t any clear-cut indicators for psychiatry, but this isn’t for want of trying. Without much success, several NIMH research initiatives under Insel sought to identify the genetic or biological causes of mental disease. There are more direct genetic connections to some diseases than others, such as schizophrenia.

Overtreated and Over-Medicated?

Depending on the treating physician, even treatments with a substantial body of research behind them may have variable degrees of efficacy. According to research, one of the best predictors of how well a treatment will work is the relationship between the patient and the therapist. This may explain why CBT frequently appears to be a crapshoot, with some people leaving their sessions feeling enlightened and powerful and others feeling the same as when they arrived.

Therapy may help some people, but there are occasions when it is mistakenly believed to be a magic bullet for all of life’s ills in spite of scientific and anecdotal evidence to the contrary. According to the APA, roughly 75% of people who undergo psychotherapy receive some benefit from it. However, not everyone has benefits, and some people may even have adverse consequences, according to research. It may take 20 sessions for those who progress to make a breakthrough.

It’s maybe not surprising that medicine, which is a speedier remedy in contrast to treatment that may entail a major commitment of time, money, and energy, is so well-liked. In the previous year, about 16% of American adults used some sort of mental medication. Antidepressants are the most widely used drugs in the class.

Antidepressants do tend to be particularly useful for persons with severe depression, according to research, and there are clearly people who report that their symptoms become better or go away after taking one. According to the National Library of Medicine, their use may also be advantageous for those who suffer from anxiety and other illnesses. However, the evidence for antidepressants isn’t as strong as one might anticipate for one of the most popular medicine groups available.

Why then do some people experience improved mood after using antidepressants? Moncrieff isn’t sure if they’re actually addressing the underlying cause of depression, despite the fact that they obviously have some impact on the brain and may even improve mood. She thinks that in order to do that, doctors must do more than just prescribe medication; they must assist patients in resolving their personal issues.

Studies do, however, demonstrate that “problem-solving therapy,” a technique that teaches individuals how to manage stresses, can be effective. One such study is the 2019 literature review on mental therapies.

A drug could treat symptoms, but it won’t change a person’s fundamental circumstances, such as being locked up, going through a divorce, being harassed at school, facing prejudice, or experiencing loneliness. A pill also won’t be able to change the reality that we live in a very divided nation where gun violence is frequent, climate change is already having an impact, more than 10% of the population is impoverished, prejudice still exists, COVID-19 is still expanding, and the judicial system is regressing in terms of civil liberties.

Many individuals are experiencing material misery, and they are reacting to their suffering in a logical, sensible way. The psychiatric system, however, often appears more concerned with having individuals diagnosed, treated, and discharged than it does with acknowledging the variety of circumstances that might affect mental health, from personal trauma to the geopolitical environment.

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