Chat with us, powered by LiveChat There is no doubt that America is having a mental health crisis. It is estimated that 46 million Americans today are suffering from some sort of | WriteDen

There is no doubt that America is having a mental health crisis. It is estimated that 46 million Americans today are suffering from some sort of


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Patricia France

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There is no doubt that America is having a mental health crisis. It is estimated that 46 million Americans today are suffering from some sort of mental health issue, ranging from anxiety to sever depression to paranoid schizophrenia. What is even more surprising is that despite the incredible amount of people who are suffering, less than 43 percent are actively seeking any sort of treatment for their mental health (Zhong). Whether it is the lack of available mental health treatment, the stigma that our culture has fabricated around mental health, or the fear of having expensive drugs with harmful side-effects pushed upon patients, it is more than apparent that our mental health as a nation is on the decline, and possibly beginning a spiral down. Luckily, our understanding of our mental health has come a long way from when we used to drill holes in people’s heads because we thought evil spirits were living there. We have broadened our understanding of our mental health and with that, an increased awareness of mental health, as well as new, innovative treatments have been developed to help those in need.

Hippocrates, also known as the “Father of Medicine”, is thought to be the first physician to suggest a link between health and environment, diet, and lifestyle instead of the work of supernatural forces upon the human body. While many physicians are still struggling to convince people of this it would also be a long time until this approach to medicine would allow physicians around the world to make significant progress. We must remember that it is called “practicing medicine” and for good reason. I do not believe that there is a single doctor today that can tell you they completely understand the inner working of the human body, let alone the complexities of the human mind. Like the evolution of the treatment of our physical health, physicians would slowly and painstakingly peel back each layer of the human mind while meticulously putting the puzzle pieces together that make up the human psyche over the next two and a half millennia. Hippocrates had a total of eight mental health diagnoses which were, “Mania, Melancholy, Phrenitis, Insanity, Disobedience, Paranoia, Panic, Epilepsy and Hysteria” (Taylor). While some of these words are still used in modern medicine, the fact that physicians limited mental health diagnoses to only eight shows that we have already come a long way in broadening our understanding since Hippocrates’ time.

One of the biggest problems is the stigma that we have allowed our culture to create surrounding mental health. It has permeated our television shows, movies, and minds. One of America’s most popular shows, “The Sopranos” opens with the lead character Tony, in the office of his new therapist. He immediately denies having a panic attack and then goes on to question the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Later in the pilot, Tony wonders where “Guys like Clark Gable went, you know the strong, silent types?”. Growing up all my life as a boy, I was expected to keep my emotions on the inside and believed that showing any sign of an emotion like sadness or having any doubt in myself would be perceived as a weakness. Talking with my friends it was like this for all of us, and even with my closest of friends we found it difficult to talk about anything that we thought was wrong with us. Now though, we know not only are these emotions normal for us to have but healthy for us to express them in a positive and non-destructive manner. These ideas were presented on a show that was so popular at the time, people would have viewing parties with their friends to watch the newest episodes. Tony’s battle with his psyche is the central conflict for the remainder of the series, and it paints a terrific picture of how psychotherapy and our mental health is viewed in America today.

            Another major issue with America’s mental health is that we have been conditioned to seek happiness and relief inside of little orange bottles with white lids. Unfortunately, drugs are used as the first line of defense far too frequently in the treatment of our mental health. Some may argue that it is because so many people are suffering in America today, and that doctors simply cannot handle the staggering number of cases that they get. They take the easy way out and write a prescription for their patients in hopes of helping them and moving onto the next patient. It makes sense, if you could give someone a pill and cure what ails them, and move on to someone else, helping more and more people quickly and effectively, then why would doctors not want to do that? Prescriptions for antidepressants were so commonplace, I remember I had a close friend who was prescribed fluoxetine when we were in middle school because their therapist thought it would be the most effective treatment. Fluoxetine goes by a much more popular name, that most people are familiar with, Prozac. This is the root of the problem. The pharmaceutical industry has tenaciously pushed dangerous drugs on the American people while lining their own pockets.  Dr. Irving Kirsch is a retired psychologist who studied the effects of antidepressants, His book The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth investigates one of the most common mental health treatments in America and found the antidepressants he had studied were no more effective than the placebo effect on the patients involved. These drugs have very harmful side effects, such as weight gain, decreased libido, and, potentially, risk of suicide. So, if the drugs are not effective and they have the potential to be harmful, why has the U.S. seen such prolific use of drugs in the treatment of mental health? It may have something to do with the fact that of the 394 doctors who received over $100,000 from pharmaceutical companies in 2006, 116 of them were psychologists and that the pharmaceutical industry spent nearly a billion dollars on lobbying from 1998 to 2006 or that the pharmaceutical industries sales were around 289 billion in 2010 (Taylor). Anyone who has been unfortunate to have to go to the hospital has seen firsthand the capitalistic greed that has seeped into our healthcare industry. Where most other countries have some form of basic universal health care for their citizens, the U.S. healthcare industry is still mostly comprised of private companies that expect you to have insurance or to pay for treatments out of pocket. The costs and time investments of these treatments can discourage patients and makes drugs seem like a quick and easy fix. Physicians are encouraged to dole out drugs to get onto the next patient and make their hospital’s money or even worse get some form of kick back from the big pharmaceutical companies.

There needs to be another paradigm shift in the way that doctors are treating their mental patients. Electroconvulsive therapy, or electroshock therapy, used to be an incredibly commonplace treatment for a whole host of illnesses ranging from depression to extreme psychosis, just like doctors are handing drugs out left and right today. Doctors today know from their past mistakes that there are very extreme cases where electroconvulsive therapy can be useful when administered in an incredibly controlled environment, but they are far and few between (Taylor). Why not take this same approach with the harmful drugs that have become so commonplace today? We have seen that they have negative side effects, just like electroconvulsive therapy when it is being used incorrectly, and sometimes they are not any more effective than the placebo effect. Instead of immediately reaching for a bottle Prozac, Wellbutrin, or Xanax, doctors should take a deeper assessment of their patients. If someone lost their job, their spouse left them, and their dog died all in the same week, I would imagine that they would feel terrible. Three devastating life changing events like that would almost be guaranteed too. But if that person then went to seek some professional help and were handed a prescription for antidepressants that could permanently alter their brain chemistry, would that benefit someone in that situation? Maybe continued psychotherapy during that person’s transition in life would be more beneficial without the risks that come from antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. The important thing is not to immediately reach for the prescriptions and to see if something else might be able to help the patients instead. With that thought in mind, today doctors around the world are working together to try and figure out what they can do to improve our mental health in many different and innovative ways.

            One of the more recent changes in the approach to mental health is the understanding of the important link between physical and mental health. Today you can go online and find a group to hike with, jog with or even do yoga with all with the expressed intent of improving your mental health. The benefits of all these activities on our mental health have begun to be investigated by doctors. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), studies show that physical activity can reduce stress levels and fatigue while improving concentration and cognitive function. The ADAA also states that people who exercise regularly are 25 percent less likely to develop any kind of anxiety disorder or depression. Another interesting study from the Joslin Diabetes Center showed that our gut biome may be directly linked to our mental health. Poor, high-fat diets that are often associated with obesity and type II diabetes were shown to increase depressive behaviors in mice. Once the mice were given antibiotics to flush out the harmful gut flora in them, after their mood improved and returned to normal the mice maintained their normal behavior when they were put on a poor diet and antibiotics simultaneously to negate any production of harmful (Haridy). Michelle Obama, probably the most famous first lady since Jackie Kennedy, made it her mission while she was first lady to improve the health of our country. She saw that obesity and laziness had spread across the U.S. like an epidemic and sought to eradicate it where possible. She pushed to have the sugar companies put the daily value of sugar on the labels of food and beverages, something that large sugar companies had lobbied against for decades. She pushed against childhood obesity in her “Let’s Play” initiative, where she encouraged healthy eating and the importance of exercise. She did all of this because she saw how unhealthy we are as a nation. With nearly one third of Americans being obese perhaps the first thing to try is improving where you can physically and seeing what that does for you mentally (Sinha).

            While there is a currently a tremendous amount of people suffering from mental illnesses, the way that technology has been adapted to treat people has been truly innovative. Before the world stopped thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, taking the time out of your day to go down to your therapist’s office for an hour-long session could be hard for people working multiple jobs, or have families to tend to. They might have to work during all their local therapists’ hours and cannot make it in when they are open, or perhaps the thought of going and sharing deep and intimate thoughts with a stranger in a foreign environment generates a lot of anxiety, especially in extreme cases like those suffering from agoraphobia. Luckily, there are things like Zoom for patients who would rather meet with their therapists from the comfort of their own home. Also, smartphone applications like BetterHelp have been developed and designed to allow people to seek out professional mental health for a whole host of illnesses such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even borderline personality disorder. They have patients fill out a profile to match them with a mental health professional that they feel would be appropriate to treat you based on a lot of factors such as how you want to meet such as over the phone or video calls, when you can meet, and what you are looking to have treated. With over a million downloads currently, apps like BetterHelp shows it is obvious that being able to seek out professional help in a remote setting is starting to catch on. The pandemic prompted doctors to study the effectiveness of remote telepsychiatry as people were no longer able to meet with their physician face-to-face anymore, and countries like China reported a significant rise in remote telepsychiatry being used to treat people during the pandemic. Some may thing that the lack of face-to-face interaction maybe too much of a disadvantage to make telepsychiatry an effective tool in treatment, but all the evidence points to the contrary. The Indian Journal of Psychiatry has an article titled ““Telepsychiatry” in the time of Covid-19: Overcoming the challenges” and it states that when it comes to matter of the effectiveness of telepsychiatry, that “the quality of doctor–patient interactions is the same as an in-person interview, while it also is seemingly cost-effective.”. Telepsychiatry is on the rise and could very well be the next big innovation in the treatment of mental health.

            The Center of Disease Control and Prevention says that today in the United States nearly 1 out of 10 children from the ages of 2-17 suffers from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). What is worse is that over 60 percent of these children also suffer from some other form of mental illness as well such as depression, anxiety, Autism spectrum disorder, Tourette syndrome or behavioral problems. While the average number of children with ADHD that are getting treatment is higher than the national average, all these children deserve effective treatment and should have it available to them. Unfortunately, the treatment that the lucky ones do receive come with drugs as only 15% of the children receiving treatment were not on some form of medication for their ADHD. These medications include things like Adderall which is known to cause loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, headache, and trouble sleeping just to name a few off the laundry list of side effects. The Food and Drug Administration approved the first ever video game that could be prescribed for treating ADHD in 2019, hopefully taking a step towards ending the drugs being pushed onto our children. EndeavorRx is a racing game designed to help relieve the symptoms brought on by ADHD, and half of the parents of the children involved in the study of the game said they saw “a clinically meaningful change in their children’s day-to-day impairments,” and that was just after a month of treatment with EndeavorRx. Another benefit of EndeavorRx is, that contrary to the mainstream media’s belief, children that were treated with EndeavorRx had “No serious adverse reactions with EndeavorRx in any study to date.”. Every child deserves every opportunity to grow up healthy both physically and mentally. Why not treat common ailments like ADHD with things that kids already enjoy like video games instead of drugs with detrimental side effects?  Maybe in the future instead of handing your child a bottle full of Ritalin, doctors will prescribe them a Nintendo or PC game instead.

Americans are suffering from mental illnesses at a staggering rate. We need to change the way that we approach our mental health and start doing something positive for it. Too many people are embarrassed to seek help, and the few that are trying to do something, are given a bottle of pills, and told that those will make everything better. We should take a step back and look at the other factors like diet, lack of exercise or alternative treatments like EndeavorRx as viable options instead of always reaching for the medicine cabinet. People can seek out help when and where they need it with the option of telepsychiatry and apps on their smart phones. While America might be suffering from poor mental health now, our future might be one where we better understand the human psyche and how to keep the mind healthy thanks to the innovations being made today.

Works Cited

“: Online Counseling & Therapy – Apps on Google Play.” Google, Google,

“Data and Statistics About ADHD.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Nov. 2020,

“EndeavorRx.” Children’s Technology Review, vol. 28, no. 3, Sept. 2020, p. 9. EBSCOhost,

Haridy, Rich. “Exciting Insight into Role Gut Bacteria Play in Obesity-Related Depression and Anxiety.” New Atlas, 18 June 2018,

Kirsch, Irving. The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. Basic Books, 2011.

Perera SR, Gambheera H, Williams SS. “Telepsychiatry” in the time of COVID-19: Overcoming the challenges. Indian J Psychiatry 2020; 62: S391-4.


Taylor, Michael A. Hippocrates Cried: The Decline of American Psychiatry. Oxford Univ. Press, 2013.

Zhong Li, et al. “Telepsychiatry Adoption across Hospitals in the United States: A Cross-Sectional Study.” BMC Psychiatry, vol. 21, no. 1, Apr. 2021, pp. 1–12. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1186/s12888-021-03180-8.


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