Mental health in the first world

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Mental health in the first world

Postby Indrajala » Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:42 pm

CBC is reporting that 1 in 6 canucks report needing mental health care:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/mental-he ... -1.1858867

It is probably a lot higher in reality. I know in a lot of first world countries, Japan and Singapore being examples I'm personally familiar with, mental health is a serious concern. People often report debilitating levels of stress. People in the third world of course suffer such problems, sure, but I imagine less so. As the saying goes, for the poor suffering is physical. For the rich, it is mental.

It begs the question, though, how best to prevent deterioration of mental health apart from the obvious Buddhist method of meditation?

I often think that decadence and abundance of possessions are unhealthy for the mind, thus a stoic and simple lifestyle is perhaps optimally healthy.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:42 pm

Indrajala wrote:CBC is reporting that 1 in 6 canucks report needing mental health care:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/mental-he ... -1.1858867

It is probably a lot higher in reality. I know in a lot of first world countries, Japan and Singapore being examples I'm personally familiar with, mental health is a serious concern. People often report debilitating levels of stress. People in the third world of course suffer such problems, sure, but I imagine less so. As the saying goes, for the poor suffering is physical. For the rich, it is mental.

It begs the question, though, how best to prevent deterioration of mental health apart from the obvious Buddhist method of meditation?

I often think that decadence and abundance of possessions are unhealthy for the mind, thus a stoic and simple lifestyle is perhaps optimally healthy.


Just going purely on subjective experience here, I think you are on to something. The biggest cause of psychological stress amongst the middle and lower middle class people i'm usually around is financial troubles related to over consumption of things, foods, whatever else. In addition many people I know are profoundly unhappy with their jobs and have a hard time not obsessing about them.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby palchi » Wed Sep 18, 2013 9:01 pm

Not many mental health problems in developing countries? That is not my experience here in Southern Africa - there are clearly many people with mental health problems: suicide rates are high, levels of sexual violence against children, rape, domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, abandonment of babies, alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, unemployment, food insecurity are all very high. However, there is only very limited access to mental health services. And there are no (or no reliable) statistics on mental health. And what you can't measure remains hidden...

Here in Namibia at least the suffering of the poor is both physical and mental.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby Indrajala » Thu Sep 19, 2013 2:31 am

palchi wrote:Here in Namibia at least the suffering of the poor is both physical and mental.


I would be a bit stressed out living in a land where many are dying of AIDS and there's next to no hope for the future. A lot of Africa is exceptional.

I know an Indian guy who went from being a village kid with no electricity to being a successful capitalist in Tokyo, and he said he never knew what "stress" was back home. I've heard this sort of thing from others, too. They report life in the countryside before all the development was quite alright and stress was never a concern for anyone. It wasn't because they were rich, because they weren't.

Vandana Shiva has also noted how farmers in India only got suicidal after Monsanto introduced their product and loans to go with them. The Indian government responded with dispatching therapists.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby Indrajala » Thu Sep 19, 2013 2:32 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Just going purely on subjective experience here, I think you are on to something. The biggest cause of psychological stress amongst the middle and lower middle class people i'm usually around is financial troubles related to over consumption of things, foods, whatever else. In addition many people I know are profoundly unhappy with their jobs and have a hard time not obsessing about them.


Maybe the hardest part is you can't walk away easily. You gotta pay that mortgage, be a breadwinner and/or pay off all kinds of consumer debt.

It is a gilded cage the first world lifestyle. Superficially nice, but still a cage.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Sep 19, 2013 2:48 am

The fear of having what you have taken away is there for sure as one goes up in class.

It's absolutely a cage, income bears little relation to happiness in the set of people I know, with a couple exceptions, it might even have an inverse relationship.

There are things that reduce stress, access to medical care, a house and such, but once you go beyond simplicity it's a big headache, your shit is always breaking but you need to replace it etc.

One of the happiest, or at least emotionally healthy people I know is my Dad, who bought a small plot of land in the middle of nowhere and lives on his meager retirement with my Stepmom...grows about half his own food. A fairly simple life, and hard in some ways, but I do notice a lack of the kind of stress that my gainfully employed friends have, especially those with lofty ambitions for career and material wealth.

I think it's possible to live differently even right in the middle of it, or at least to live with values that don't go along with the herd so much..I feel like my wife and I manage that pretty well and manage hopefully to raise our kids in an environment where they get some respite from the world of BUYBUYBUY GOGOGO, but the way things are going I can't even imagine what they will have to deal with. I'm sick of being asked why i don't own a cellphone lol.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby greentara » Thu Sep 19, 2013 4:05 am

Indrajala, Vandana Siva's comments are thought provoking and utterly fearless. It seems there are enough mental health problems in the third world as well, often brought about by debt! "Through patents on seed, Monsanto has become the “Life Lord” of our planet, collecting rents for life’s renewal from farmers, the original breeders.
The entry of Monsanto in the Indian seed sector was made possible with a 1988 Seed Policy imposed by the World Bank
An internal advisory by the agricultural ministry of India in January 2012 had this to say to the cotton-growing states in India — “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.”
The highest acreage of Bt cotton is in Maharashtra and this is also where the highest farmer suicides are. Suicides increased after Bt cotton was introduced — Monsanto’s royalty extraction, and the high costs of seed and chemicals have created a debt trap. It is in this systemic sense that Monsanto’s seeds are seeds of suicide.
The ultimate seeds of suicide is Monsanto’s patented technology to create sterile seeds, called “Terminator technology.”
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby shaunc » Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:25 am

It's true that stress & mental health problems are higher in the 1st world but everything comes at a price, at least we get to suffer with a certain degree of comfort, better to be stressed than hungry.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby Thrasymachus » Sun Sep 22, 2013 2:39 am

This sums it up:
Image

@palchi:
Are you taking about the urban poor who of course have it horrible? The rural poor who can still eek out a sustenance agricultural existence are often poor materially, but actually much happier. It is when they become "integrated" enough into capitalism to not be able to farm and have to sell their labor that they tend to end up worse than those in the First World.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Sep 22, 2013 3:37 am

One of the topics that came up in the Buddhism and the West class that I took was that: part of the cost of living in a liberal individualist society is the possibility of screwing up your life (to put it bluntly). In traditional societies, people are generally born into roles and livelihoods that are laid down by tradition. They might also be much less self-conscious than those born in individualist cultures, because their thinking tends to be more conditioned, again by tradition and the way life is lived by everyone around them.

As Western society has developed, so too have the numbers and types of choices that individuals are given. At the same time, traditional culture is often deprecated or criticized. This easily results in such feelings as anomie, alienation and meaninglessness. It doesn't actually have to result in that, but it is easy to see how it can. It is part of the 'price of freedom' (in the sense of social freedom rather than inner freedom that is the domain of Buddhism).

That is the topic of the existentialist psychology of Eric Fromm's 'Fear of Freedom' (also published as 'Escape from Freedom').

Wikipedia wrote:Fromm distinguishes between 'freedom from' (negative freedom) and 'freedom to' (positive freedom). The former refers to emancipation from restrictions such as social conventions placed on individuals by other people or institutions. This is the kind of freedom typified by the Existentialism of Sartre, and has often been fought for historically, but according to Fromm, on its own it can be a destructive force unless accompanied by a creative element, 'freedom to' the use of freedom to employ spontaneously the total integrated personality in creative acts. This, he argues, necessarily implies a true connectedness with others that goes beyond the superficial bonds of conventional social intercourse: "...in the spontaneous realization of the self, man unites himself anew with the world..."

In the process of becoming emancipated from an overbearing authority/set of values, Fromm argues, we are often left with feelings of emptiness and anxiety (he likens this process to the individuation of infants in the normal course of child development) that will not abate until we use our 'freedom to' and develop some form of replacement of the old order. However, a common substitute for exercising "freedom to" or authenticity is to submit to an authoritarian system that replaces the old order with another of different external appearance but identical function for the individual: to eliminate uncertainty by prescribing what to think and how to act. He characterises this as a dialectic historical process whereby the original situation is the thesis and the emancipation from it the antithesis. The synthesis is only reached when something has replaced the original order and provided humans with a new security. Fromm does not indicate that the new system will necessarily be an improvement.


It is not strictly related to mental health but I'm sure there is a bearing.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby shaunc » Sun Sep 22, 2013 4:24 am

jeeprs wrote:One of the topics that came up in the Buddhism and the West class that I took was that: part of the cost of living in a liberal individualist society is the possibility of screwing up your life (to put it bluntly). In traditional societies, people are generally born into roles and livelihoods that are laid down by tradition. They might also be much less self-conscious than those born in individualist cultures, because their thinking tends to be more conditioned, again by tradition and the way life is lived by everyone around them.

As Western society has developed, so too have the numbers and types of choices that individuals are given. At the same time, traditional culture is often deprecated or criticized. This easily results in such feelings as anomie, alienation and meaninglessness. It doesn't actually have to result in that, but it is easy to see how it can. It is part of the 'price of freedom' (in the sense of social freedom rather than inner freedom that is the domain of Buddhism).

That is the topic of the existentialist psychology of Eric Fromm's 'Fear of Freedom' (also published as 'Escape from Freedom').

Wikipedia wrote:Fromm distinguishes between 'freedom from' (negative freedom) and 'freedom to' (positive freedom). The former refers to emancipation from restrictions such as social conventions placed on individuals by other people or institutions. This is the kind of freedom typified by the Existentialism of Sartre, and has often been fought for historically, but according to Fromm, on its own it can be a destructive force unless accompanied by a creative element, 'freedom to' the use of freedom to employ spontaneously the total integrated personality in creative acts. This, he argues, necessarily implies a true connectedness with others that goes beyond the superficial bonds of conventional social intercourse: "...in the spontaneous realization of the self, man unites himself anew with the world..."

In the process of becoming emancipated from an overbearing authority/set of values, Fromm argues, we are often left with feelings of emptiness and anxiety (he likens this process to the individuation of infants in the normal course of child development) that will not abate until we use our 'freedom to' and develop some form of replacement of the old order. However, a common substitute for exercising "freedom to" or authenticity is to submit to an authoritarian system that replaces the old order with another of different external appearance but identical function for the individual: to eliminate uncertainty by prescribing what to think and how to act. He characterises this as a dialectic historical process whereby the original situation is the thesis and the emancipation from it the antithesis. The synthesis is only reached when something has replaced the original order and provided humans with a new security. Fromm does not indicate that the new system will necessarily be an improvement.


It is not strictly related to mental health but I'm sure there is a bearing.

Following in your fathers footsteps so to speak went on quite a lot in western society, probably until the 1950's or 60's. while there are some benefits to this type of arrangement it's also a way of society to keep the class structure in place. As far as Buddhism is concerned I believe that the Buddha rejected the class system which made him very revolutionary for his time.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby Nemo » Sun Sep 22, 2013 6:42 am

Thrasymachus wrote:This sums it up:
Image


Where will they go for help? Psychiatry and psychology refuse to face that psychosocial conditions cause the majority of mental suffering due to the political implications. They pretend that the causes are biological and yet after 60 years they have yet to come up with even one biological test for a DSM condition. It's a pseudosicence not much better than astrology.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:06 am

The problem is that due to Capitalist structures Psychiatry is often hindered in finding the best solutions for the people that it is trying to help.

For example SAMe has shown some promise to treat depression (as has turmeric, for example), but as these cannot be patented the Pharmaceutical companies try to discredit these kind of supplements before they get a fair trial. Of course, if there is money to be made those interests have to be protected as more important than the patient's mental health.

Even cancer drugs are sometimes swept under the rug when they threaten people's ability to make money:



http://www.snopes.com/politics/medical/cancercure.asp
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby palchi » Sun Sep 22, 2013 8:19 am

Thrasymachus wrote:
@palchi:
Are you taking about the urban poor who of course have it horrible? The rural poor who can still eek out a sustenance agricultural existence are often poor materially, but actually much happier. It is when they become "integrated" enough into capitalism to not be able to farm and have to sell their labor that they tend to end up worse than those in the First World.



No, I'm talking more about the rural poor than the urban poor. The urban poor at least have better access to services. There seems to be a bit of a myth among Westerners about the 'happy poor' in the 'Third World', something like the 'happy 'savage', that all are living of their land and spending all their time caring for each other etc.' I have been to many poor countries and this has never been my experience. Have you been to any African country? Have you actually talked to poor rural people about what they are struggling with and the aspirations they have for themselves and their children? People are just people everywhere. They are suffering and they want happiness. No need to claim that in one kind of society things are so much better or worse than in another kind of society, including when it comes to mental health.

And just for the record. Namibia is not a basket case but actually doing very well on many fronts. Including having a government that genuinely wants to reduce poverty and vulnerability.
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Re: Mental health in the first world

Postby undefineable » Sun Sep 22, 2013 11:30 pm

palchi wrote:The urban poor at least have better access to services. There seems to be a bit of a myth among Westerners about the 'happy poor' in the 'Third World', something like the 'happy 'savage', that all are living of their land and spending all their time caring for each other etc.'.
There may be a kernel of truth beneath the layers of romanticisation - If you think about the simplicity and choicelessness that being a "peasant" of some kind necessarily involves, it's not hard to imagine a life that's literally less "mental". There'll be relatively few demands on higher-level cognition, so "failure" is more likely to be caused by circumstance than by personal inadequacy in any form, and the necessary outcome of that failure -death- is both more predictable and in many ways more palatable (imho) than it may be in other circumstances.

On the other hand, life in a civilised tier of a civilised society is more distinctively human, and infinitely richer for those who are able to brush off the issues (endless hyper-complexity etc. etc.) that being in this position raises.
palchi wrote:I have been to many poor countries and this has never been my experience. Have you been to any African country? Have you actually talked to poor rural people about what they are struggling with and the aspirations they have for themselves and their children?
{My emphasis} Both poor Africans and westerners with severe mental problems are in the shared sitaution of hearing constantly about how sophisticated everyone and everything is up the road. {Most Africans apparently hear a lot about English Premier League Football, for example.} The comparison fails only when you consider the physical distance (i.e. whether you're talking about your neighbouring flat or your neighbouring continent) or the psychological distance that make 'emigration' either more or less likely - past and present karma being a somewhat greater obstacle than the Straits of Gibraltar _ .

Both groups share the spectacle of western civilisation with 'mentally healthy' westerners, but the latter obviously 'see it in close-up', and necessarily understand many of those details on a day-to-day level while (for the sake of their sanity!) they ignore the rest. The psychological position of medieval European serfs on the other hand, for example, was quite different in this respect.

No-one should assume that there's more suffering in the "1'st world" than in the "3'rd", but -given all the above- neither should anyone assume the reverse - Suffering just "weighs" towards different qualities in different places _ _ _
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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