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America the Ill – 9 Ways American Culture Promotes Mental Illness

By: Sasha Kildare 

*The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of International Bipolar Foundation*

Although there is still a long way to go, research has revealed many of the brain’s secrets when it comes to mental illness aka mental health conditions aka brain disorders. 

Why is the suicide rate increasing? Why is drug addiction rampant? Why is the homeless population exploding?

You can throw all the money you want at treatment, but until we change certain aspects of American culture, we cannot significantly impact this dysfunction.

1. Stop valuing status and wealth above health. We accept 3-5 hour round-trip commutes, working nearly all waking hours, and all kinds of other nonsense. 

Instead of valuing health and productivity, we value overwork.

2. The cultural assumption that anyone can be anything. Uh, no.

This fallacy is embedded in our culture. It implies that anyone can be rich. Anyone can be a brain surgeon. A CEO. So if you don’t achieve this, that’s your failing, your laziness, and you deserve to live in poverty and without healthcare

Anyone can be the best that they can be. Education’s challenge is to help the student discover their path, their purpose, and their personal best. 

3. Change disability so that those that are partially disabled can work part-time, 12-30 hours per week, and still receive disability. Work provides structure, which is good for the brain. Also, those on disability will contribute to social security, disability, etc.

4. Evaluate and treat addiction and mental health conditions together, because they feed off of each other. Canada does now.

Even if there is no genetic predisposition toward a mental health condition, addictions of all types disrupt brain and body function. Withdrawal and change are painful. Assessing for depression and more and teaching an integrative approach toward accommodating mental health conditions is bound to be more effective.

5. Recognize that there are many types of addiction and that they undermine treatment (gambling, co-dependency, workaholism, shopaholism, etc.). 

6. Provide access to healthcare to everyone, and teach preventive health. Many illnesses, accidents, and chronic health conditions when addressed earlier prove much less expensive and disruptive to treat. 

7. Tax ultraprocessed food just as we tax cigarettes. It does not give the brain the nutrients it needs to function properly and can lead to obesity and more. Obesity can aggravate depression. 

8. Address electronics addiction. We won’t need a factory to create robots—8-12 hours a day of mind-numbing content will robotize human beings just fine. 

9. Evolve education to teach nutrition, health, and mental health from kindergarten on. Evolve education to accommodate various learning styles.

And the growing income inequality doesn’t help either. Poverty is taxing. It is even more taxing in the modern world.

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