Why does this generation have higher rates of mental illness?

Lots of cases of mental illness has been diagnosed and it’s a major incline from a few decades ago.

Throughout the years, mental disorders have become more common and well known but why did the world suddenly realize this issue? Did the world become less happy or have there always been people with mental illness? 

Mental disorders have affected many people, gradually going up in the past few decades, but why has it gone up? According to mental health teaching hospital, Center for Addiction and Mental Health, 1 in 5 people have a mental illness in Canada. That makes up 7.5 million people in Canada that have a mental illness in 2021.  

Mayo clinic says that mental illness can be passed with genetics. Some of the population might have mental illness from relatives who were involved in more serious times and had mental illness from their suffering, such as 9/11 or world wars.  

People in this generation have easy access to their phone, which can lead to multiple problems. Social media can make people feel self-conscious about their bodies or personalities causing mental illnesses such as eating disorders, sleep deprivation or depression. Being addicted to your phone is a mental illness itself.  

COVID-19 has taken a toll on many peoples’ mental health, as stats say, around half of people who are living alone in Canada are suffering with mental illness. As counselors and psychologists’ companies shut down, peoples’ mental health started to deteriorate as the pandemic progressed. Protocols say to stay inside and people who live alone especially have been seeing changes in their mental health. Living alone and isolated makes people feel lonely since the closest contact to their family is behind a screen. Their normal work conferences are a three by four grid of faces. Any person who is living during this pandemic has been feeling a little anxious and lonely.   

Although, several mental illnesses come from overall stress in different situations that this urbanized world gives. Currently, there is a lot more stress in the world and that has also brought stress and pressure to people. 

Representation of stress Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay 

The first mental illness, in the modern sense, was identified in 1883 by a German physiatrist, Emil Kräpelin. He saw a pattern in the behaviors that “insane” people did. He made a system of psychological disorders to show a cause for the odd behaviors.  In the early 1900’s, although the population was smaller, only a few thousand people suffered mental illness in Canada. However, when World War I ended, rates of mental illness shot up because of a term called “shell shock,” where soldiers that came back from the war suffered major mental illness due to severe trauma.  

When mental illness wasn’t as well known, people that had more serious cases of mental health would go to mental institutions and would be considered “insane” by society. Surgeons would go over to the institutions to preform procedures on patients who have lost control or have “lost their mind”. Procedures such as psychosurgeries and lobotomies were common in the early 1900’s. These procedures might have scared some people who had minor mental illnesses, leaving them undiagnosed. The surgeries would usually involve procedures such as removing parts of the brain, electroshock, or strong drugs that take you completely out of consciousness. As for today, more people are getting diagnosed and being cured. It was not until the 60’s and 70’s when mental illness became more commonly known and properly treated.  

Over a hundred years, the incidence of mental illness have shot up by millions. A big reason why is because people in the past wouldn’t get diagnosed. Minor mental illnesses weren’t considered a mental disorder back then. Severely ill people were sent to psychiatric hospitals or were underwent torturous surgical procedures.  

The director of The National Institute of mental health, Joshua A. Gordon is planning to further research and possibilities in suicide prevention and awareness for more types of mental illness in general. If mental health awareness is spread around, then reaching out for help would be much more accessible and people will be able to get the help they need.  

However, getting mental health diagnosis right isn’t easy. 

“Accurate, replicable diagnosis continues to pose a challenge to scientists who are seeking to understand the nature of mental illnesses and develop new treatments,” Gordon wrote. 

Image credit: Myriam Zilles

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