- Jul 6, 2013
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
Proponents of the post-American view point to the 2008 financial crisis, the prolonged recession that followed, and China’s steady rise. Most are international-relations experts who, viewing geopolitics through the lens of economic competitiveness, imagine the global order as a seesaw, in which one player’s rise necessarily implies another’s fall.
But the exclusive focus on economic indicators has prevented consideration of the geopolitical implications of a US domestic trend that is also frequently discussed, but by a separate group of experts: America’s ever-increasing rates of severe mental disease (which have already been very high for a long time).
The claim that the spread of severe mental illness has reached “epidemic” proportions has been heard so often that, like any commonplace, it has lost its ability to shock. But the repercussions for international politics of the disabling conditions diagnosed as manic-depressive illnesses (including major unipolar depression) and schizophrenia could not be more serious.
A massive statistical study, conducted from 2001 to 2003 by the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), estimated the lifetime prevalence of major depression among American adults (ages 18-54) at more than 16%. Lifetime prevalence for schizophrenia was estimated at 1.7%. There is no known cure for these chronic diseases; after onset (often before the age of 18), they are likely to last until the end of the patient’s life.
Create comment on this paragraphSurveys among US college students estimated that 20% fit criteria for depression and anxiety in 2010, and that nearly 25% fit these criteria in 2012. Other studies have consistently shown rising rates of prevalence with each successive generation, and it is argued that, if older statistics were faulty, they erred on the side of underestimating the spread of mental illness.
Create comment on this paragraphAll of this suggests that as many as 20% of American adults may be severely mentally ill. In view of disputes over the significance of available data, let’s assume that only 10% of American adults are severely mentally ill. As these conditions are presumed to be distributed uniformly within the population, they must afflict a significant share of policymakers, corporate executives, educators, and military personnel of all ranks, recurrently rendering them psychotic, delusional, and deprived of sound judgment.
Create comment on this paragraphIf it is deemed sensationalist to characterize this situation as terrifying, one may add that a much larger share of the population (estimated at close to 50% in the NIMH study) is affected by less severe forms of mental disease that only occasionally disturb their functionality.
The reason for high concentrations of severe mental illness in the developed West lies in the very nature of Western societies. The “virus” of depression and schizophrenia, including their milder forms, is cultural in origin: the embarrassment of choices that these societies offer in terms of self-definition and personal identity leaves many of their members disoriented and adrift.
The Maddening of America by Liah Greenfeld - Project Syndicate