Madness At The Top

Three statistics pertaining to the “mental illness” label in the USA that have recently come to light stand out. As I reported, the Medco report showed that 1 in every 5 Americans are now on a psychiatric drug. What I didn’t mention is that the rate of women to men on these prescription drugs is much higher, and so actually 25 % of women, or 1 out of every 4 women, are on a psychiatric drug at the present time. Then there was the recent study showing, as of a couple of years ago, fully 11 % of the population is taking an antidepressant drug. These statistics, of course, apply only to the USA, the current epicenter of the worldwide epidemic in “mental illness” labeling.

This is one more reason why I’d be irked by any article with the heading, as the article I ran across at Psych Central does, Do You Have “Complete” Mental Health? This article was published in the Adventures in Positive Psychology column, and positive psychology just happens to be one of my pet peeves.

The absence of mental illness does not necessarily constitute complete mental health. Someone may not have any mental illness but they may not be satisfied with their life or striving to reach their potential. They may be surviving but not thriving.

I’m offended by any definition that would equate completeness in mental health with satisfaction and an abstract potential. I feel that such a definition tends to serve the rich and powerful, and that it is based primarily upon falsehood and misconception. Given such a definition, the most “mentally healthy” people in the world are also going to be the richest and the most powerful people as well. People in impoverished situations would, by this definition, of course, be the most afflicted.

Someone who is flourishing is living with optimal mental health and may be experiencing subjective well-being in most or all of three general domains.

We are then given 3 general domains: Emotional well-being, psychological well-being, and social well-being. Emotional well-being is described as having “positive affect and a high-level of positive emotion”. Psychological well-being is described as having “a sense of purpose and meaning in life”. Social well-being is described as having “a sense of belonging and accepting the world around us”.

Well-being is further broken down, by a certain theoretical model, into 4 further divisions.

Flourishing – Someone who are high on subjective well-being and low on mental illness.

Languishing – Someone who is low on subjective well-being and low on mental illness.

Struggling – Someone who is high of subjective well-being but also high on mental illness.

Floundering – Someone who is low on subjective well-being and high on mental illness.

The only thing I think this model serves is an arrogant and deluded sense of smug self-satisfaction. I don’t think it has a whole lot to do with reality. When “complete” success is judged by some stock exchange figure flashed over Times Square, relative success is going to be relevant in other places. I certainly wouldn’t measure success in terms of material accumulation in this fashion, and even spiritual accumulation doesn’t quite cut the grade.

I, for example, don’t think it a good idea to praise people for flourishing when those very same people dump oil off the coasts of Alaska, Louisiana, and New Zealand. I don’t think of dumping oil as very healthy, mentally or physically. I certainly don’t think it to be very healthy to wildlife. You dump oil into the ocean, and that’s bad karma, for yourself, for the wildlife you impact so disastrously, and for everybody else. I don’t think it “mentally healthy” to ignore this fact.

99 % of the population is struggling, lanquishing, or floundering, by this definition, while 1 % of population is flourishing in a more objective sense. I want to point out again that there is something wrong with flourishing at the expense of life on this planet, and that apparently we’re still locking up the wrong people for being disturbed and disturbing. Were we to lock up, if not psychiatrists, then maybe a few drug company CEOs, it is my belief that the rate of psychiatric drug abuse in this country would go down appreciably.