Listen now | Do we need better access to mental health, or a healthier society?
I am in complete agreement. I am very stressed and so are many people I know--and we don't need pills or doctors, we need a saner society. Here in London I've been spending most of my time helping get out the overseas vote. Combatting angst with action is how many friends and acquaintances are coping. I'm lucky enough to have good health care under the NHS in the UK (for now) and have heard from so many Americans talk about how much time, money and energy they waste on trying to understand and afford health care plans. And that is just health care! Who wants their children to have to undergo active shooter drills at school--that doesn't happen anywhere else. Americans don't need to live like this. They just need to say so at the ballot box like never before.
Thank you for this spot-on commentary. Our society is indeed sick, and I don’t feel hopeful about our future. I see homeless people lying on the streets while extreme wealth is flashed before us as an attainable ideal. As a teacher, I found myself researching bullet-proof vests, and fearing for my life every single day. My adult children struggle to find meaningful work that pays, and can barely pay rent. Global warming is still not taken seriously, despite catastrophic weather. I could go on and on, but you already named these stressors. If anyone is not stressed, they’re either wealthy enough to shelter from reality, or they’re not paying attention.
People like you and Bernie Sanders are lights in these dark times.
Excellent article. I'm in the over 65 group. I am worried all the time. The quality of my life depends on the next election. Social Security and Medicare are in jeopardy if the GOP take control of Congress. My rights as a woman and human being will be in jeopardy if the GOP take control of Congress. My rights as a PA citizen will be in jeopardy if Mastriano wins the election for governor.
I foolishly hoped I would be able to coast in the last years of my life. I'm just as worried now as I have ever been. This is insane.
In five minutes and 45 seconds you have provided a brilliant summary of life in America in the Age of Corruption and the pressing need to move into another Age of Reform. Thank you Robert.
Stress symptoms mimic anxiety and depression. I agree absolutely that the societal pathology is causing stress and the cure is not therapy or medication. I spend hours on hold trying to get authorizations for healthcare and appointments. As a mental health provider I am well experienced in the absurd morass of the hundreds of health insurers and their contracted “vendors” that handle various services including prescriptions. I spend numerous unreimbursed hours each week advocating for patients, dealing with denials, getting authorizations. Our healthcare system including mental healthcare is truly insane. Robert Reich is spot on that we must fulfill the promises of the Preamble to The Constitution and effectively promote social welfare and our common good to resolve the unnecessary stress we have created with our easy gun access, difficult healthcare access, difficult higher education access, difficult challenges to a living wage.
(Also Making us Sick ) Double Standards and Trickle Down Economics (Democracy’s Kryptonite)
American History shows double standards have been with us since our beginning.
In order to form that
“MORE PERFECT UNION“ we need to eliminate double standards and Trickle Down Economics!
( Below are just a few
examples of double standards )
* One set of rules for politicians and the super rich and another for the rest of us
* Unequal Law Enforcement treatment of criminal behavior depending on who you are or what race you are
* ( Lady Justice is Blindfolded Right?) NOT !
* Unequal gender pay across the country for doing the same job and producing the same results
* News Media reports that are allowed to promote division in our country
* Facts (which is an absolute)vs Alternative facts
* Honest politicians (Very hard to find ) vs mostly hypocrites
* Certain asylum seeking immigrants welcome others unwelcome ( race? )
I believe that if we the people want to preserve our Democracy we need to all come together as equal and respectful Americans and hold our elected officials accountable to work together as one government and eliminate double standards. We put these people in the government to work for all Americans not just the Super Rich! We have an ongoing Civil War right now. [ OUR CONGRESS ]
The Democrats are passing a few
bills that help all of us, (Trickle up and out Economics), with almost all Republicans voting against them! The two parties are constantly @ war. It’s time for our Government to pass around a peace pipe! (They all took an oath :)
COUNTRY OVER PARTY
The entire capitalistic values system defines people by money. To most people in the US, a “good job” is a highly-paid one, no matter what the cost may be on the psyche. I thank my lucky stars that I was so obsessed with classical singing I landed a full-time salaried position in an opera chorus in Belgium from 1989 - 2016. This came with paid 6-week summer holidays, health care, government subsidised public transport to work, and a pension which I am now enjoying in sunny Spain by the sea. My job was not highly paid by US standards, but it was a wonderful job, offering a decent standard of living in a culture that appreciates the arts and believes in giving something back to the people for their hard-earned tax money. It’s time the US learns from other nations who have developed values systems that actually serve the people rather than destroying them.
The Scandinavian countries are consistently rated best on measures of happiness. They have social safety nets, healthcare for all, free or inexpensive college, little gun violence.
When suggestions are made to become more like
these social democracies Republicans and their greedy donors try to scare people by waving their hands screaming “Socialism!” and then pretending that Americans are so “free” because they can easily buy military weapons.
As long as a few very rich people control politics and the courts, we will never have a healthier, less anxious society.
More mental health services are needed, but those services could never solve our current problems.
There are numerous people in government who are in desperate need of mental health services; some, however, are incurable. Their behavior is destructive to our society and none should have the responsibility for other people’s lives. Trump is at the top of the list of the diagnosable. Clarence And Ginni Thomas, MTG, Greg Abbott,
Kristen Sinema, Boebert are all disturbed in different ways, but all are dangers to a healthy
functioning society. There are many more crawling around the edges of power who are not elected. Roger Stone is an obvious sociopath. Some of Trump’s lawyers would be in a psychiatric facility if they weren’t wealthy and (in)famous.
If bad and sick people are allowed to have power, a bad and sick society is inevitable.
You have hit the nail on the head - or at lease one of them. Thank you Robert.
As a Family Physician specialising in mental health I continue to see mental illness rise in Australia too, not from chemical imbalances or biological abnormalities but from social and policy choices. We too in Australia can't find enough psychologists and therapists. Most of our private psychiatrist have stopped seeing new patients or their waiting times are at least 12 months. The hospital system- free to the public - is even more inundated. We are trying to put our fingers in the holes of the dikes when the walls are collapsing.
It is normal that our brain get anxious when we can't pay the bills or don't know where our next meal for our children is coming from. It is normal that we fall into despair when wealthier people put us down and keep us down rather than show raise us up and show us they care- offer us support and help. We can expect to be depressed if we can't find a way out of our misery. A misery, as you continue to try to educate, that is a policy choice.
How much longer before we finally stop punishing the poor for a plight we as a society have chosen to imposed on them? Before we learn the system we have created isn't working? Before we learn our priorities are making us sick - severely mentally sick.
How sad is it, it seems we in the West have become so anxious and scared we are even terrified of helping each other!
This article is timely. Only last week I released a book on how to reduce anxiety and fear called "Taming Fear in the Age of Covid." I hope that if we can get our overall fear levels down we might be able to have more engaging and informative discussions with less hate and division.
Thank you, again, Robert for your efforts. I have been enjoying reading them almost since they began. Only today have I left a comment. As you can see it is topic close to my heart. I hope others are moved by it too.
Here it is 1:15 am and I can't sleep because of stress- about money, children, climate and everything that was said in your column. Loneliness and social media posts that EVERYONE is living the good life but me. Levels of stress are indeed all around us every time a newspaper is opened.
I suscribe to "Nice News" so that the first read of the morning is not bad news. I'm tired of BAD NEWS!
I agree that there is good reason for anxiety and depression--but what makes them think the problems are limited to those under 65?
Thank you Dr. Reich for addressing one of the most neglected areas of health - mental disorders. As a satisfied member of Kaiser since 1965, I can attest to their failed mental health program. I lost my youngest daughter to clinical depression. She self medicated with alcohol, fell into my swimming pool, (I was working in DC at the time) and drowned. At that time, 2014, Kaiser offered 12 private sessions per year, when a mental health patient needed daily treatments and consultations, not monthly. I paid (outside of Kaiser) to help my daughter get off alcohol, which treatment was expensive (it took all my savings at the time) and the result lasted only 11 months, before the sever depression overtook her again. From 2007 until 2019 I was working primarily on the east coast. Keeping in touch with daily phone calls, both to my daughter and her adult children. With no affordable access to mental health treatment, and the asinine insistence that mental health could only be treated on agreement of the patient, who could neither understand their illness nor respond rationally to it. Yes I agree with you that all anxiety and depression is not a sign of mental illness, and certainly too many "pills" are not the correct answer to societies woes. But, I am also woefully aware of the need for more mental health professionals at all levels to combat a disease as damaging and deadly as cancer, heart problems and diabetes.
I love it when they say that people "may feel that the system is rigged against them.” They may also feel that the earth is round, that 2+2=4 and that pigs can't fly.
Your column struck me as so timely to my personal situation. We’ve been living on a Greek island this summer, fixing up an old house and living in a totally different (and healthier) headspace. We’ve developed relationships with village locals and a few expats here who sympathize with our need to return to the chaos and angst of life in the US. They share our dismay at what’s happening there, in the land their ancestors emigrated to 2 generations ago to have an opportunity at the “American Dream”. Now folks like them see that dream as an illusion there and folks like us are looking for a “Plan B” to get back to the old country in case things get untenable back home.
The village where we live is safe, welcoming, family focused and surprisingly well informed about global events, a community where kids can play unattended in the neighborhood, where people stop to visit and sitting around “having a coffee” isn’t considered unproductive but a requisite part of life.
We haven’t seen a single unhoused person here, and our friend who runs a restaurant divulged that there’s a few folks who come there to eat free of charge when they are struggling. I’m sure other businesses offer the same unspoken generosity. And there’s no shame and no resentment in this transaction. One just expects to help those who are known to be in need. Of course it’s not Nirvana here (although it looks pretty close though my eyes), but they seem to have figured out how to live in community despite their personal and political differences. And there’s not a psychiatrist in sight.
As we prepared to leave the island tomorrow I’ve started having palpitations and anxiety again, that familiar knot in my gut and angst about the future creeping back into the backdrop of my days (a common problem back home). Do I have a mental health problem? I guess so as I need a physician to keep prescribing my medications. But I think what I really need is a return ticket to this place that shakes their head and says “what’s happened to American?”
Yesterday as I prepared to talk to the premedical group regarding Single Payer heatlhcare for all, the event was called off due to the hurrricane. of the large studies assessing the cost of universal healthcare in the US, about 85% show we could save money even in the first year by covering everyone with comprehensive care expense starting at birth. Even the CBO analysis and conservative analyses come to that conclusion. Simplifying the solution: allow volume discounts for medications (the VA and Canada save 40% by doing so), and reducing the rediculous waste in our overhead expense of about 35%. Canada's system overhead is around 12%, Taiwan's which is patterned after our Medicare is about 8% last I looked. Cutting 20% of nearly 4 trillion dollars a year would more than pay for Cadillac coverage for all. Politics and money get in the way. Just writing about it is stressing me out, got to stop.
Until we develop better medications for stress and depression, having a psychiatrist on every corner would not help. Of course, society is in desperate need of help. It's no wonder that mental illness is at record levels. Unfortunately, I don't see any improvement on the horizon. Looking back over my life, which I have plenty of time to do now that I'm retired, I can see so many mistakes that I made, but I see many places where society created enormous speed bumps that led to anxiety and discomfort, starting with the Vietnam War for my generation. It's no wonder that people are experiencing record levels of stress, depression and addiction. People have been taught to battle on through the obvious wrongs rather than fight in a more positive way which would be to try to correct the wrongs. Until society learns to fight to fix things, we will be doomed to even higher levels of mental illness. I wish I could be more positive.