It’s undeniable that mental illness has become an increasingly prominent topic over the past decade. It seems as if endless social media users plaster their pages with articles and posts about these issues. Many sufferers are finding the online world can empathize with their condition, and the official diagnosis statistics are at an all-time high.
This sudden prominence may be due to our increased understanding of mental health problems and ability to access information, or rather because on an inherent increase in the conditions themselves. While a definitive answer to this question is impossible to know, it’s undeniable that the discussions around mental health are going to become increasingly important in the upcoming years.
What Is Mental Health?
Up until very recently, the intricate workings of our brain were relatively unknown. What it meant to be in good mental health, and the repercussions if things went wrong, were so falsely interpreted that it led to extreme medical interventions. Some of the most controversial hospital cases surround those suffering from “insanity,” and the dreaded historical lunatic asylums are still a well-known horror to this day.
Fortunately, when we now talk about mental health, we can understand it more pragmatically. As neuroscientists have begun to map our consciousness, we are better able to recognize and define normal brain processes. Subsequently, if any of these systems go awry—such as the fight/flight response regarding anxiety disorders—then the symptomatic result falls under a diagnosis of mental illness.
Signs and Symptoms
In the past, doctors only assigned mental problems to the most extreme of cases; people with obvious symptoms, such as schizophrenia, hysteria or delusions. However, the incredible advances in the modern science have allowed us to identify a much broader range of illnesses. The sufferers of which may appear functional on the surface, but could be victims of an internal struggle that goes unnoticed.
Periodically, as professionals released subsequent studies on this topic, it became apparent that mental health was not simply a case of illness versus wellness. In fact, it was a multi-faceted scale that we all exist in some form, one that was easily malleable. Anyone, anywhere could fall into bouts of depression after a loss or suffer panic attacks under pressure from work. On the flip side, many found they could recover from their ailments with the correct support.
This incredible spread of information and understanding across the globe led to the development of resources, applications and endless other tools that allowed everyone the opportunity for better mental health.
The Mental Illness Epidemic
Unfortunately, alongside this ultimately positive change, there is an alarming shadow that has yet to be adequately addressed. When Newsweek published the disturbing report that an astonishing 1 in 5 Americans suffers from mental illness each year, an important truth because clear: the western world is going through a mental health crisis.
Perhaps, even more of a concern, it looks as though these figures may be on the rise as the current generation grows up. Reports have labeled Millennials the anxious generation, not equipped for the demands of “real life.” These worrying trends are becoming increasingly common, and the future holds some serious questions to consider.
How can we gain an objective perspective on what is happening to the collective minds of our young people? Is our mental health out of control? Or are their social elements that are to blame for the current epidemic?
Mental Health and the Internet
The one clear change that has occurred over the last few decades is the advance of the internet. In fact, it’s almost mind-boggling to consider that a mere 20 years ago most people had never been online before. Unlike their ancestors, the children of today have grown up attached to WiFi. While this has afforded them a wealth of instant access and knowledge, many professionals worry there may be a darker side to being constantly connected.
Dr. Romeo Vitalli discusses a syndrome known as internet addiction disorder, which notes some teens inability to stay off their devices for extended periods of time. This problem has subsequently lead to social isolation and difficulties facing real-world pressures, such as schoolwork. Scientists have explicitly linked these issues with low-self esteem, suicidal thoughts, social anxiety and depression.
Whether we can confirm that the internet is directly responsible for these symptoms or merely a chosen crutch for those who already suffer, it’s clear that its existence has revolutionized the way we view our minds inner-workings.
As our understanding continues to grow and more of the population embraces these diagnoses, mental health will undoubtedly become an increasingly important aspect of our lives. Whether this will result in accentuating the problem or finding the cure, only time will tell.
How do you think mental health and the study of mental health will impact the coming years? Share with us in the comments below.