4.6. Mental Health and Addictions

These epidemics are social problems. The turmoil in us is a reflection of the turmoil in our society.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems have soared over the past few decades.

A few addiction rates are lower than they used to be. But others have exploded.

More and more people are struggling to cope. And the health industry—the industry that’s supposed to be making it better—is to some extent making it worse.

This really is a meaner, nastier era.

I know some people like to act all tough, and say, “Oh, it didn’t used to be like this. People are too soft and spoiled. People need to just suck it up.”

Sorry…but that’s bullshit.

We’re living today with a near-total collapse of trust in our society.

We don’t trust the government. We don’t trust businesses. We don’t trust the media. We don’t trust total strangers, walking down the street. Some of us can’t even trust our own family members.

Is anybody really on our side? Is anybody really looking out for our best interests?

We feel like powerless citizens, exploited workers, and empty consumers—people to be used and abused, and then tossed aside when they’re done with us.

Is it really so surprising that millions of people wouldn’t exactly be thriving in this lonely, stressful, perpetually insecure day-to-day existence?

Unfortunately, the same societal problems that cause people to fall into a depression, succumb to panic attacks, or reach for an addictive substance are just as omnipresent in the industries that are supposed to be healing them.

Pharmaceutical companies tout bogus studies, pressure doctors, bombard us with ads—and sometimes even flat-out make up afflictions so they can sell medicine to treat it.

Psychiatrists will mumble a few questions, write you a prescription, and shoo you out the door in less than fifteen minutes.

Therapists are often expensive—and often hit-or-miss, in terms of whether or not you actually get what you pay for.

Alternative, homeopathic treatments seem to actually be treating you with dignity…until you realize you’re basically paying them for an unreliable placebo effect.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever patronize any of those folks. There are some good ones out there, and there’s a video on getting help coming later this week.

My point is mental health and addiction epidemics are social problems that require social solutions.

They may seem like strictly personal problems. But when millions of people are afflicted in the same ways, by the same rampant conditions…how can it be their fault?

Yes, people need treatment. But not in ways that reproduce the same crushing loneliness and insecurity that led them to need treatment in the first place.

And wouldn’t it be better if, instead of continually having to treat millions of people one by one…we paid more attention to fixing the social conditions that make people ill in the first place?

Strengthening communities. Making our institutions more humane and effective. Building a trustworthy society that actually makes people feel safe and valued.

Don’t beat yourself up if you grapple with mental health or addiction issues. And don’t let anybody tell you there’s something wrong with you.

You aren’t the problem. And you’re far from the only one.

The turmoil in you is a reflection of the turmoil in our society…but there are things you can do to get better.


This is the 66th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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