Ladies and gentlemen, you've surely heard the old saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," right? Well, the current domestic and global affairs beg to differ! And, I'm here to tell you that the world needs a mental health check - and pronto!
As if out of a horrifying movie script, we've got wars in Ukraine and Israel, rioting all over the world, increased suicide and drug overdoses, and terrorist attacks domestically and internationally. Now, I'm not an alarmist, but it's not just the physical toll that's alarming. It's the mental health toll, and boy, is it tolling!
A recent survey of Ukrainians, done in between dodging bullets, showed a whopping 70% showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And of course, the recent addition to the ongoing conflicts in the world is the terrorist group Hamas waging war on Israel, resulting in unimaginable tragedy and causing psychological trauma for years to come. In equally cheery news, The US, Denmark, France, and other European nations are currently facing the grim reality of either imminent threats or actual terrorist attacks. This unfortunate situation is likely to result in a significant but unquantified number of individuals developing post-traumatic stress disorder. At this rate, PTSD might just become the next pandemic.
What's common among all these unfortunate souls plagued with PTSD is that they are dealing with flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and avoidance of situations that remind them of the trauma. If that's not enough, many are also dealing with depression, which makes getting out of bed each day a herculean task. So be proud if you made it today!
In the United States, the suicide rate has seen a concerning rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been a 5% increase in 2021, marking the highest rate since 2006. Alarming as it is, the CDC also highlights a staggering 54% surge in the suicide rate among adolescents and young adults (ages 10-24) from 2000 to 2020. In 2021, an alarming number of lives were lost due to drug overdoses in the United States. Tragically, over 108,000 individuals succumbed to this devastating epidemic, marking the highest number of drug overdose deaths ever recorded in a single year. Disturbingly, the CDC revealed a staggering 94% increase in the overdose rate among adolescents and young adults (ages 15-24) between 2019 and 2021. These statistics serve as a stark reminder of the pressing need for heightened awareness and support to combat this critical issue.
The civil unrest in the US since 2020 has resulted in estimated damages ranging from $1 billion to $2 billion. According to a report by the Insurance Information Institute (III), the rioting and looting during the summer of 2020 marked the costliest civil disorder event in the history of the United States. Regardless of the cause behind the riots, the burden will inevitably fall upon the taxpayers, and not just in terms of financial implications. The long-lasting effects of the riots, both on mental health and the additional financial burdens, will be felt for years to come. It's a vicious cycle, riots lead to more stress and mental health issues, leading to more unrest.
And let's not forget about the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With businesses shutting down, job losses, and financial instability, it has been a tough couple of years for many individuals and families. According to a study by the Federal Reserve, 22% of households reported a loss of employment income due to the pandemic. This has resulted in increased financial stress and anxiety, which can have severe effects on mental health.
Fortunately, in every tragedy throughout history, there have always been individuals to accompany us, to form connections with, and to exchange stories, sparing us from facing it all alone. The truth is that for the very reason we have different ideas and/or beliefs we will always have hardships, tragedies, war, and so on. So, grab a friend, or a therapist, or join a support group, and tell your story. Remember, there's no shame in seeking professional help. In fact, it's a sign of great strength to acknowledge when you need help and to reach out for it. And let me tell you, nothing beats talking it out and getting some perspective. Plus, who knows, you might even meet some new friends in the process.
But if opening up to others isn't your jam, there are other ways to cope. Take time for yourself, whether it's through meditation, exercise, writing/journaling, or indulging in a hobby. And don't forget the power of laughter - watch a comedy show or simply crack jokes with friends.
During these challenging times, when we face a multitude of intricate social and emotional concerns beyond the scope of this article, it is crucial to prioritize self-care. Eat well, sleep well, and exercise regularly. Try some relaxation techniques and keep away from social media, booze, and drugs. And while it's tempting to stay glued to the news, try to limit your exposure unless it is necessary. Choosing to disengage from current affairs doesn't signify a lack of concern, but rather an acknowledgment of personal boundaries on the depth of our care and the select few we choose to share it with.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is crucial to reach out for professional assistance. Remember, it is perfectly alright to not feel alright.