Monday, August 23, 2004

Rising mental illness due to global capitalism

"The substance abuse epidemic, the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, suicide, depression, and anxiety disorders, and violence are problems that are increasing all over the world and have something to do with our political economy and the way culture is changing worldwide," according to Arthur Kleinman, M.D., chair of the department of social medicine at Harvard University and professor of psychiatry at Cambridge Hospital. Kleinman connects the dramatic changes in China's society with their rise of mental illness. The adoption of global capitalism and its peculiar mixture with traditional patriarchy and a totalitarian regime has led to the world's highest rate of suicide, especially among young women in rural areas. (for more see Psychiatric Times January 1999 Vol. XVI Issue 1 link above).
During my 2 month visit to America this summer, I noticed a similar rise of drug use (both doctor prescribed and illegal), depression, anxiety, and general irrationality. Either there is something toxic in the water supply, or Americans are not dealing well with the macro-problems of job losses, the increasing costs of our military misadventures overseas, silent epidemics of breast cancers and other environmental diseases, and the mass media's obsession with rudeness and barbarity. People are turning for salvation from all that to dubious religious prophets and to a fatal strategy of overeating, supersizing themselves on junk food. Americans have quickly become caricatures of themselves. It is impolite to say this, but Reality Therapy is probably what we need more of. This would allow us to observe the obvious open secret that we are long overdue for deep reforms in our economic structure, governance, educational system, and media. Otherwise we're slowing being cooked to death like the proverbial frog in a pan of water. The rest of the world laughs nervously at us, since of course we have the best cruise missiles and we're all too willing to use them. Is it finally time for us to stop hanging out, chillin', wasting time, waiting for Godot, watching the boobtube, and instead get out into the real world with something to offer?


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