The Major Share of Youth Disability Worldwide Psychiatric

As reported in The LA Times in a story with the heading, Young people’s disabilities due in large part to psychiatric disorders, study finds, the number 1 cause of disability among young people worldwide is reported to be “in the mind”, or with what could perhaps be more aptly called growing up disorder. (Some people even go so far as to call it “not growing up disorder”.)

For young people all over the world, the most prevalent causes of disability are in the mind. For youth, neuropsychiatric disorders including major depression and alcohol use comprise 45% of the disability burden among young people from 10 to 24 years old, according to a study published online Monday in the Lancet. That’s about four times as much as that caused by unintentional injuries (12%) and infectious and parasitic diseases (10%).

You have to do a little reading between the lines when it comes to arriving at any projected remedy to this rapidly escalating problem.

Young people’s health tends to be neglected when talking about global public health issues because they’re perceived as healthy, the authors point out. But catching problems earlier in life can improve longevity and quality of life over the long term.

Or not…

“Although risk factors and the lifestyles that young people adopt might not affect their health during this period, they can have a substantial effect in later life and can potentially affect the health of future generations,” the authors write. “For example, high patterns of physical activity that are adopted during youth and sustained thereafter are thought to have protective effects against the onset of cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes.”

Problem! The drugs most commonly used to treat so called “serious mental illness” can cause a metabolic syndrome that greatly increases the chance of developing a cariovascular disease and diabetes. A big danger here is that by blindly pursuing standard psychiatric practice the population of young mentally disabled people will increase rather than decline.

The article, Helping mentally ill go back to work a win for all, an opinion piece in The Australian about how the face of disability there is changing from elderly people suffering from musculoskeltal conditions to young people with psychiatric labels, concludes by pointing to more realistic solutions to this problem.

But as the number of people with psychological conditions on disability pensions increases, and the age profile of disability pensioners shifts, we will need to look at more fundamental ways to keep relatively young people with a disability off welfare and in the workforce.

I don’t know how it works in Australia, but in the USA disability benefits and welfare benefits are not synonymous. The idea is to get people off Social Security Disability Income benefits as well. Another snag in this outlook is that people are not supposed to receive SSDI unless they suffer from a permanent disability. We have perception and definitional confusions here that must be resolved before we can affect a reasonable solution to this shortcoming. A person who suffered from permanent disabilities would by definition be excluded from the workforce. This is a particularly trying problem as the social security bureaucracy expects people to prove disability in order to receive benefits. Getting off benefits is not a possibility allowed for by this bureaucracy. I suggest that we need to loosen our definitions in the interests of accurately accessing reality, and of reintegrating people back into the workforce, and back into the community at large.

For many people with mental illness, the disability pension as a one-way street with few requirements and little help to get back into the workforce is simply not good enough.

The exact same statement could be made about people with psychiatric labels and SSDI benefits in the USA. It is my fear that such financial dependence, as shown by the preceding article and study, is growing increasingly common on a global scale.

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4 Responses

  1. Here in Australia the government congratulates itself on us having low unemployment, supposedly 4.9%. So if you throw people on a disability scrapheap they don’t count as unemployed. A couple of times in the past few days people on TV have said that we have no unemployment.

    Also, although our government is secular it panders to noisy fundies, mainly Catholics and Evangelicals. These people are just plain stupid. They drive their children to suicide and then clamour for more shrinks.

    • Good points, Rod. When people leave the unemployment rolls, not because they have a job, but because they receive benefits that excuse them from working, they don’t cease to be unemployed. The under and unemployed are still short good work even when they aren’t being counted. The statistics we get are from people receiving unemployment benefits.

      In the USA, following the banking industry engineered worldwide economic crisis we recently endured, the unemployment rate is still about 9 % in many places, and this is only people, as indicated above, receiving unemployment. The real figure is much higher. Also, just a few years ago this kind of unemployment rate would have been unthinkable. The government would have acted if the unemployment rate here was as high, low from our present perspective, as it is in Australia.

      President Carter instituted a jobs program during his administration. Wall street and the banking industry are so far into President Obama that there is no way he would act in the same matter. Alas, I remember a time when this nation had a work ethic.

      We’ve got our share of religious goons, too. In fact, they were the primary force behind the previous idiot (well, excuse me, intellectually challenged person) to occupy the white house. The Xtian fundamentalists kept President Bush going over two terms. Any truly concerned and non-bought politician is still unelectable to that office in this country.

  2. I would give anything to get off SSDI and work. Anything!

    What kills me is I know so many kids in college who WANT the label- like you wrote in your piece “teenage nuts is the new cool”. I live between two huge university towns and students see the label giving them extra perks at school they wouldn’t get if they were normal. They laugh about it and to top it off, they get disability payments too.

    I want to work. If it was just my mind, I would fight it and get some kind of job. i’ve schlepped tables and drinks, worked fast food, cleaned houses, taught high school and college, done customer service, and worked in a news room as a research assistant and writer. My body is broke and it’s a frickin shame, because if and when I get heaalthy I want to work. Not working is a death sentence.

    • Your’s is not an unusal story, Susan. I’ve heard the same sort of thing over and over again. People come out of the psychiatric system who want to work, and yet they have few or no real employment opportunities. This, I think, is a real shortcoming in our present mental health system that unfortunately would require some effort to fix. All too often “chronic mental illness” is actually a euphemism for “chronic unemployment”. Also, when a person has been injured by the mental health treatment he or she has received, the system is ill equipped to make any sort of amends. “Ill equipped”, in this instance, is just a euphemism for “the same old same old”. Change comes from people who actually want change, and there are a heck of a lot of people in the human services field who don’t want to see any real change.

      I’ve seen what you’re talking about where kids are concerned, too. This is a social problem, and it’s a growing one. It started when they began labeling problem students ADD and ADHD. Besides ADHD they’ve managed to add, on top of the conventionally “minor mental illnesses”, all the “majors”, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. When “troubled homes” translates “mental illness”, this population grows.

      Now the authorities are saying that there is even more “mental illness” in the world, and we’d have even more people in treatment if there wasn’t such a “stigma” against receiving mental health treatment. Alright, give mental health treatment an advertizing facelift, and what do you get, voila! Kids opting for the trendy disease. It’s kinda like having Britney mania to be “disturbed”, and isn’t she “disturbed” anyway. This is the problem on the face of it. Underneath it all, you’ve got the power and influence of the drug companies. The USA and New Zealand are the only countries in the world that allow for Direct To Consumer advertizing of pharmaceutical products. The point I’m trying to make here is that you don’t sell pharmaceutical products without also selling the “diseases” they were designed to treat. As this population expands, perhaps, a few more people will wake up, and start to get it. “Sick” is quickly becoming the new “normal”.

      The antidote, if there is any? ROTFL

      If you are looking to do something you’d feel good about, you might consider doing volunteer work for a charity organization in your area. It may not pay, but it sure might help you feel better about yourself and things in general.

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