21st Century Mental Health

Mental health is something that we all struggle with from time to time, albeit not to the same extent. But are cases of mental health on the rise? With more and more suffering from complex conditions such as anxiety and depression, is this due to our fascination with technology and mass media?

Many scientific studies have been done on the increasing incidence of stress and depression, but what do they tell us?

In a paper written by Sheldon Cohen and Denise Janicki-Deverts, they studied psychological stress through a national survey distributed in three widely spaced years. Through these studies, they frequently found that stress was more common among younger people and the unemployed, putting them at extreme risk for psychological disease. Of course this publication correlates with others detailing more specific illnesses such as depression, with many studies finding that depression is more prolific now than in earlier ages.

But then from studying suicide rates from 1950-2010, we seem to see an overall decrease from the initial figure. So how can a generation that is struggling more with mental illness show such a decrease?

We can assume that although many more are suffering, the stigma surrounding mental illness has decreased dramatically, so therefore many more people are reaching out for help across the world. With a generation receiving the appropriate treatment for their conditions, such illnesses are more manageable leading to less people taking their lives. In order to understand why the suicide rate was higher in 1950-1960, we must look at the mindset of that generation.

In a publication by Jo Phelan et. al, they discussed how uninformed the general public was about mental health, with reactions being ‘fearful and rejecting’. Could this have impacted those who came out with their illnesses? Of course. With this stigma around, there was a lot of brushing mental illness under the rugs and avoiding the topic, leading to many struggling internally and carrying out extreme reactions such as suicide.

With this in mind, can we really suggest that there are more cases of mental illnesses happening nowadays, or was the stigma attached to mental health really a reason why more didn’t come forward to be identified?



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