Image from Flickr
In the past few years, teen suicides, gun shootings, and reports of anxiety have increased. It seems that more and more people are seeing psychologists and getting medication for their mental health. Many people have opened up about having ADD/ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and OCD. But what could be causing this influx in mental disorders? Is something wrong in the healthcare system, environment, or genetic health we live in?
There has been an increase in “SPD, serious psychological distress”, according to the “annual health survey conducted by the CDC.”Mental health issues were previously associated with teenagers, but now middle aged adults are considered high risk for mental illness and suicide. It seems that the recession of 2008 still has a lasting effect on the health and careers of older millennials. Healthcare access and affordability is still unreachable for those with psychological problems. There is not enough psychologists to meet the need of patients, and not enough money for patients to see the doctors. Oftentimes, psychology doctor’s offices are always booked 3 months in advance. It is difficult for a patient to find an appointment time sooner rather than later. Having a long, extended period without seeing a therapist or psychologist may bode very badly for those needing mental help. In these gap periods, so much time may elapse that a patient does not receive medication, which can result in terrible mental distress that may lead to suicide or other negative decision making. To add upon all this, sometimes patients’ insurance doesn’t cover for medication. Someone who has a mental health issue doesn’t just have a temporary problem; it is a problem that stays with them all their life. The costs of buying medication every month eventually add up. And, some medications can add up to $1000 dollars or more for 30 pills like Saphris, an antipsychotic medication for schizophrenia. The lack of doctors who can prescribe medication and the sheer cost of the very same medication leads to many people suffering through their mental illness instead of receiving the help they need.
Technology is every day more present in our lives. Instead of going to have live interaction with people and engaging with friends, people engage with their phones. Psychologist Jean Twenge surveyed over 500 American adolescents and found that those “who spent more time on screen activities (smartphones, Internet, and social media) were significantly more likely to have symptoms of depression an suicidal ideation than those who spent their time on non-screen activities.” There have also been other studies relating heavy Facebook use to depression in the past. Other studies have found that increasing personal interactions leads to greater psychological stability and well-being. Humans are naturally social animals, but were not built to only socialize via pictures or words on text. From the beginning, humans have an evolutionary history of interacting by the integration of body language, voice recognition, and the simple hormonal presence of other humans they have recognized as their friend. Social media takes away 2 of the most vital factors in human interaction. Research has shown that being put into solitary confinement often drives monkeys crazy, leading to them scratching and harming themselves. The lack of human connection through technology has resulted in a false sense of communication. Why is it that people say a break up should occur in person and not over phone? It is because people innately know that seeing and talking with a person in real life is that much more valuable than over a phone.
Currently, AP Biology is on the unit of genetics. Multiple reasons account for why people develop genetic diseases. Mental illness however, is not determined by just one gene, but many genes working together that culminate in the problem. Mental illness has been increasing because developed countries have no need for natural selection anymore. Historically, those who have had worse health, mentally or physically, have simply passed away before reaching the age to procreate. With the advent of modern medicine, people who would have originally been cut out of the gene pool spread their harmfully mutated genes. The more mutated genes spread, the more likely mental illness and genetic problems like Down’s Syndrome occurs. Alexander Markov says that, “We know now that an average newborn has about 70 new mutations their parents didn’t have, “ which over time accumulates. On a societal basis, in the past 100 years, there has been a tendency that uneducated people reproduce more. Those who have high intelligence, education, and possibly better genes tend to reproduce less and later than those who do not. Developed countries’ societies genetic health is continuing to deteriorate.
Mental health issues are increasing due to genetic, societal, and healthcare system factors. But the technology is growing to the point where people can control the genetics of their child. Even if the gene pool is deficient, science may be able to combat this by turning certain genes on or off for children. As a society, it is unlikely that people will stop playing on their phones and having more real life interactions. More and more people choose to even shop online for groceries. However, perhaps a cultural change will occur in which people decide to have large get togethers and focus on interactive communication. As for the healthcare system, since many teenagers need psychologists, perhaps more teenagers will choose to fill this gap and pursue clinical psychology as a career, filling up this gap in the medical field. More and more teens are becoming outspoken about the government, so perhaps systematic changes will be made. Even though mental health disorders are increasing, changes can be made to alleviate the problem this presents.