A recent study on the mental health of Americans says in the past year, one in four people in the United States met the criteria for having a mental illness. According to head researcher Ronald Kessler, that would seem to indicate that the U.S. leads the world in mental illness.
Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Rogan, a spokesman for the Christian Medical Association, says one reason for this statistic may be that Americans are more attuned to feelings than people of many other societies. “It certainly appears in our culture that we're noticing mental illness more and more,” he notes. “There certainly is an element of being socially more aware of things.”
But at the same time, Rogan says, Americans are increasingly aware and focused on the fact “that there are costs to mental illness in the workplace and in life that there are financial consequences and other consequences. I think that may be helping drive things in that direction also.” The Christian psychiatrist points out that this heightened awareness of psychological states and their implications is not necessarily bad news.
Rogan believes having more understanding about mental illness helps Americans more readily identify potentially problematic symptoms. He also feels they are less stoical than their global counterparts. But while Americans may express more of their inner life, he contends there has traditionally been a spiritual buffer in their culture that helped to address and contain many of the mental health crises that occur.
“A lot of times when we have [psychological] problems or issues,” Rogan says, “when the Church was maybe more predominant in our society and maybe more active, a lot of these things may have been just absorbed into the natural caring that you got in a church-like Christian community.” However, the CMA spokesman contends, taking God out of the public realm has removed some of these protections.
The Christian Medical Association is America's largest organization of faith-based doctors and serves as a Christian voice on today's most important bioethical issues. CMA addresses breaking bioethical news and comments on issues related to mental and physical health and quality/sanctity-of-life topics such as abortion, stem-cell research, physician-assisted suicide, and disability concerns.