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Amid the mass shootings, the substantial uptick in suicides, and the addiction epidemic, the constant refrain seems to be that America is suffering a mental health crisis. Certainly, the numbers bear out when we consider prescription drug use to treat anxiety and depression alone.
Harvard University reported that antidepressant use has increased by 400% since the 1990s:
According…to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008.
Those statistics alone should be cause for some serious soul-searching for all of us. Such a staggering increase in antidepressant use certainly adds to the argument that America is quickly becoming a helpless, inoculated society of hopeless souls.
Even a popular TED Talk diagnosed our current plight with exacting precision:
We are the most addicted, we are the most medicated, obese, and in-debt adult cohort in human history.
Worse, the actual effectiveness of antidepressants is not at all confirmed when factoring in placebo. In fact, the claims made by psychiatry and by pharmaceutical companies on antidepressants remain quite dogmatic. In a piece entitled “The Psychiatric Drug Crisis” for The New Yorker, Gary Greenberg states the following:
Despite their continued failure to understand how psychiatric drugs work, doctors continue to tell patients that their troubles are the result of chemical imbalances in their brains. As Frank Ayd pointed out, this explanation helps reassure patients even as it encourages them to take their medicine, and it fits in perfectly with our expectation that doctors will seek out and destroy the chemical villains responsible for all of our suffering, both physical and mental. The theory may not work as science, but it is a devastatingly effective myth.
Sadly, simple physical exercise has been repeatedly proven to be more effective in treating mild to moderate depression. In 2014, The Atlantic Monthly reported:
A 2011 study…looked at 127 depressed people who hadn’t experienced relief from SSRIs, a common type of antidepressant, and found that exercise led 30 percent of them into remission—a result that was as good as, or better than, drugs alone.
If simple physical exercise can remedy an exceedingly common mental health issue, the fundamental problem with so many in America is, ultimately, a moral one. Our volition, our sense of courage and forbearance, are all now at a premium. However, so many are now accosted by a very insidious and nihilistic question: “What’s the point?”
Resignation and defeat seem to pervade the American landscape. We can barely even register notions of the common good, never mind what is objectively good for ourselves.
The moral and ethical foundation that ought to buttress us in times of hardship and fatigue is cracked and crumbling, if not altogether broken. While the Left has certainly deconstructed our values into oblivion, we cannot disregard our collective spiritual and moral lassitude in this crisis either.
At best, only frail and brittle platitudes inform our collective moral pedigree these days. There are no longer discernible footholds to guide us out of the various trials and tribulations that assail us. Instead, we are told to inoculate ourselves with all manner of pills and potions. Others simply turn to illicit drugs and alcohol to remedy the existential aches.
A dull despair seems the order of the day. We must do better. It’s imperative that we dust off and engage our moral compass once again for the betterment of each other, and for ourselves. And we must do so with courage, fortitude, and, most importantly, hope.