I missed it at the time, and I want to apologise to the people of America for my oversight. I know they’re going through a tough time at present, and they need all the emotional support they can get.
I’ve just learned about the report of the APA (American Psychological Association) published in February. Among their findings:
- The overall average reported stress level of Americans is on the rise.
- Two-thirds of Americans say they are stressed about the future of their nation, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans.
- More than half of Americans say the current political climate is a source of stress, while other causes of increased stress are: acts of terrorism, violence toward minorities and personal safety.
- Interestingly, Americans with a tertiary education report being more stressed than those with a high school diploma or less, as do those who reside in urban areas compared with those who live in suburban or rural areas.
- 80 percent of people report at least one health symptom because of stress, such as headaches, feeling overwhelmed, nervous or anxious, depressed or sad.
Taxi drivers are reportedly confirming the APA’s findings. Goddy Aledan, a driver of 20 years experience in the nation’s capital said recently, “I would say 60 percent of those that ride my cab are really anxious” and not just because of his driving. Furthermore, that’s in spite of the fact that Washington DC has “some of the country’s highest per capita rates of mental health professionals.” Just imagine how bad things are in Michigan, Texas and California where there are “severe shortages of psychiatric professionals”!
On the other hand, political writer Belen Fernandez argued recently in an article entitled “The United States of Insanity” that “US society has been sick for quite some time”, and referred to “bipartisan insanity, a pre-existing condition that constitutes one of the very foundations of the US political establishment.” In fact, she claims, the “unrelenting capitalism” that dominates American society, encouraging a “vicious pursuit of profit at the expense of human wellbeing”, inevitably leads to mental instability. Add to this the “permeation of existence with attention-obliterating electronic devices [and] the common predicament of being saddled with eternal debt in exchange for education and other services” and you have a recipe for insanity which is constantly being stirred up by the war-mongering and fear-mongering of political leaders on both sides of the house: the Clintons, husband and wife, and the Bushes, father and son.
To this toxic mix Fernandez adds the “egregious over-prescription” of the American pharmaceutical industry. I’m starting to feel sorry for those poor Americans.
Part of the problem, of course, stems from isolation. As we all know, healthy relationships with friends, family, neighbours and colleagues are essential for mental well-being. So what are the implications of New Yorkers being 5,500 km away from their best friends in the world, the good people of London, UK? And a further 4,500 km from Damascus, Syria, the current target for US bombs and drone strikes? Even Caracas is 3,300 km from those DC taxi passengers, so what can they know of the suffering of Venezuelans? Actually, I had to convert all those kilometre distances from miles. Did you know that, of the 196 countries in the world, only four still use the imperial system of weights and measures? Who are they? Libya, Myanmar, the United States and the United Kingdom. With that kind of determined isolationism, it’s hardly surprising they’ve got psychological problems.
But that’s not the worst of it. “US remains isolated from allies on climate change”. Who is not aware that the Big DT refused to lend his support to a global climate change accord agreed to by the other wealthy G7 nations at their May conference? Trump’s spokesperson claimed that the president’s “views are evolving” on the issue. From what I hear, America’s CEO needs some accelerated evolution in a number of areas. Pretty much everyone recognises that the world’s climate is undergoing change for the worse, that human activity is a major contributor to the problem, and that the United States of America has the planet’s largest carbon footprint. But their presidents refuse to talk about it, never mind set an example for the rest of us to follow.
And then there’s the paranoia. Of course this is a chicken and egg business. Do you get mentally ill because you think everyone out there is trying to get you? Or is paranoia a symptom of mental disturbance? Certainly there’s a snowball effect, and the poultry question is now largely irrelevant. Apart from the fear and stress of the average American citizen, there is also escalating panic at the highest levels of the political and mass media establishment over the question of Russia’s involvement in determining the outcome of the US presidential election. A recent article in Time Magazine went several steps further, suggesting that Russia has developed the technology to hack into US computer systems, gather personal information about citizens, then hack again into social media sites such as Twitter, spreading links allowing Russians to “take control of the victim’s phone or computer – and Twitter account.”
“What chaos,” the writer asked, “could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States? At any given moment, perhaps during a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, Pentagon Twitter accounts might send out false information. As each tweet corroborated another, and covert Russian agents amplified the messages even further afield, the result could be panic and confusion.”
Paranoia indeed! Paranoia-noia-noia!!
Still, as the APA statistics indicate, those enlisting the aid of a psychiatric professional tend to be better educated and probably from the higher end of the socio-economic spectrum. I would speculate that they also make up the majority of the 55% of eligible voters who turned out for the 2016 presidential election. The poorer, less educated American tends to have problems beyond the reach of modern psychiatry, and to believe that neither political party has much interest in addressing their problems.
An article in the UK Guardian the other day took an in-depth look at Baltimore, 15 years after the HBO TV documentary The Wire “documented the poverty, politics and policing of a [rust-belt] city”. “While some parts of Baltimore are thriving,” we read, “others have gone into reverse. In 2015, the death of an African American man in police custody triggered widespread unrest, while the total murder rate of 344 was the highest per capita in the city’s history. Last year the figure was 318. In 2017 so far (up to 10 May), there have been 124 murders, outstripping Chicago and putting Baltimore on course for its bloodiest year ever.”
Compare the stark realism of The Wire with the glamourised political shenanigans of House of Cards, or the surrealistic world of Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire. Schizophrenic inability to comprehend the reality of the world you inhabit, and conscious denial when faced with “inconvenient truths” are also indications of serious psychological disorder.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those stressed Americans as they struggle to comprehend “the very fate of civilisation.”