The state of mental health
Quality of life has never been better.
The worldwide standard of living keeps climbing. Innovations in healthcare mean that we get to live longer than ever before. Humankind has never had so many resources available literally at its fingertips.
Yet, as a global society, we’re not all that happy.
In fact, more Americans than ever before (nearly 1/5 of adults) now suffer from serious psychological distress.
It’s clear that psychological distress and mental illness have reached unprecedented levels. And this crisis can have serious consequences.
At Jour we’ve been studying this issue — talking to mental health experts about what’s going on, why it’s happening, and what we can do to help.
Here’s an overview of what we’ve discovered. And how we think we can help.
But First, if You’re Looking For Someone to 📞 Talk to
You can quickly find counselors to talk to at any of the following numbers:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273‑TALK (8255)
- The Trevor Project: (866) 488–7386
- Veterans Crisis Line: (800) 273–8255
- Crisis Text Line: Text DBSA to 741741
- National Hopeline Network: (800) 442–4673
Know that you’re never alone and that dark times pass. We all deserve to be helped.
If you’d like to reach out to us or tell us your journey with mental health, please reach out to us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Closer Look 👀
Seen around the world
This increase in mental unease is not a solely American phenomenon. In fact, many of the “happiest countries” in the world — as ranked by the United Nations — are seeing rises in mental health disorders:
- In Australia, 25% of all 16- to 24-year-olds suffer from a mental illness.
- In Sweden, younger citizens were 20% more likely to be prescribed anxiety mediation in 2013 than they were in 2006.
- In Helsinki, Finland the number of children being treated for mental health issues has more than doubled within the last decade.
- In Asian and Middle Eastern countries — though mental health is less reported on — an average 9% of the population was found to suffer from major depression.
- Anxiety currently affects about 1 in every 13 people on Earth.
Seen across society
The increase in mental unease affects the most disadvantaged members of society, the most powerful members of society, and pretty much everyone in between.
Among those that cannot afford or unable to receive proper treatment in the US, about 1/3 of the homeless population and 16% of the total inmate population is said to suffer from a serious mental illness.
Tragically, in fact, America’s largest mental hospital is a prison.
Among those individuals that have access to superior mental health resources, illness still remains troubling prevalent.
In the UK, 20% of top-performing leaders have suffered a mental burnout. A recent study also found that entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to report having a mental health condition, with company founders demonstrating the highest rates of mental distress.
Looking at tragic examples such as Colin Kroll, Anthony Bourdain, and Robin Williams, TechCrunch contributor Jake Chapman recently argued:
“The most brilliant and creative amongst us are sometimes the most troubled, and nowhere is that clearer than in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.” — Jake Chapman
Seen across ages
And this troubling trend doesn’t show any signs of abating, with younger generations showing only higher rates of mental unease.
The rising cost of living, a more competitive market for jobs, and a dramatic increase in student debt have had dramatic effects on youth worldwide.
The millennial generation reports a higher average stress level than its predecessors (5.5/10 vs an average level of 4.9/10) and a higher rate of depression in the workplace (about 20% as opposed to 16% for baby booms and generation X).
Post-millennial adolescents have also seen their average happiness begin to decline, after consistently increasing over the previous 20 years.
For post-millennial generations, mental distress is on the rise as well. In fact, about 50% more teens in 2015 were found to suffer from clinical depression than in 2011. Tragically, teen suicide rates have also tripled for girls ages 12–15 and increased by 50% for those between 15–19.
Growing up surrounded by social media is a major contributor to this trend. A correlation has been found between the time young adults spend on social media and perceived social isolation, which can lead to more serious conditions such as depression.
Thankfully, younger generations also demonstrate greater awareness and openness toward mental health. This sign is an important first step in combatting the issue. But there is still a ways to go…
Why It’s Been so Hard to Improve 😟
It’s hard to address the issue of mental health because many individuals struggling with it don’t want to talk openly about the challenges they’ve faced.
In a 2013 Ted article, journalist Andrew Solomon explained:
“People still think that it’s shameful if they have a mental illness. They think it shows personal weakness. They think it shows a failing. If it’s their children who have mental illness, they think it reflects their failure as parents.”
Just look at the language we use to describe mental illness. Words like “crazy,” “psycho,” “loonie,” or “kook,” all humorize and dismiss the tough reality of mental illness.
As a global society, we respect individuals who seem in control of their own mind and fear those that seem strangely unable to do so, instead of giving these individuals the sympathy they need to overcome their mental struggles and feel better.
It’s a new discussion
This shame around mental health means that the public discussion of it is very new.
More than 40 percent of countries worldwide have no mental health policy.
In Japan, for example, depression wasn’t a publicly accepted condition until the 1990s.
Similarly, the US government passed the Mental Health Parity Act — which forced large group health plans to recognize mental health benefits the same way they did medical or surgical benefits — in 1996. That means that Justin Bieber is two years older than America’s parity between mental and physical healthcare.
It can be expensive
The two most common ways to treat mental distress are:
In focusing on the symptoms, most people turn toward prescription medication, such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication or beta-blockers. Such medications can be incredibly useful — even lifesaving — for some. But for others, these medications can sometimes prove addictive or personality-altering. Plus, while these drugs can alleviate symptoms, they don’t address the root causes or triggers of the symptoms.
Alternatively, therapy is aimed at addressing the root causes of mental unease and, ultimately, alleviating the symptoms as well.
However, across the US there is 1 mental health provider for every 529 individuals who need help. There are only about 8,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists practicing in the U.S while there are over 15 million patients in need of one.
This disparity between the supply of therapists and the demand for therapy means that therapy becomes a very expensive solution.
Of those adults who have untreated mental distress, roughly 50% did not receive treatment because of costs.
For example, therapy costs in New York City range from $200-$300 per session, on average.
To compound the issue, most therapists will not or cannot accept health insurance, in contrast to other health care professionals. So patients must bear the cost burden themselves.
But it’s more expensive to not solve the issue
There are many “invisible costs” associated with mental illness, incurred by such factors as early retirement and a decrease in productivity.
In 2006, it was estimated that the effects of mental illness cost the US at least $193 billion each year. In 2015 — in New York City alone — the productivity losses due to depression and substance misuse have been estimated at $14 billion.
Globally, a study by the World Health Organization found that mental distress and disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year. And this cost is sure to only increase if viable practices aren’t accepted to counter the issue.
The Mindful Solution 😌
In the midst of this rise in mental un-wellness, a new trend has emerged alongside it: mindfulness.
Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as:
The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis
As a wellness practice, mindfulness answers so many demands of the mental health epidemic because it is:
- Accepting — welcoming to users around the world and of all ages
- Empowering — does not make users feel stigmatized, ashamed, or exposed
- Cost effective — remove the barrier to entry posed by many traditional mental health treatments, such as therapy
- Convenient — an easy practice or activity that users can do, wherever they are and regardless of the background or experience with mental wellness
And it’s a practice that’s being implemented around the world, from Google offices to government offices to public school programs.
One can practice mindfulness through any technique that requires them to quiet their mind, focus their thoughts, and tune in to how they feel. But the most common form of mindfulness practice is meditation.
However, meditation can sometimes prove a difficult technique to grasp, with a steep learning curve. We wanted to bring these mindful benefits to users with a practice that is easier to approach and master.
And, therefore, we deeply believe in journaling.
The benefits of journaling
Although journaling dates back millennia, its therapeutic implementation can be traced back to the 1960s. During its long history, the practice has been embraced by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Frida Kahlo, Tim Ferriss, and Oprah.
And — amidst the growing awareness of mental wellbeing — the practice has seen a recent resurgence. People have been rediscovering the help journaling can provide in overcoming a depressing time in life, focusing on future goals, and improving self-care and self-awareness. Plus, in the age of mindfulness, journaling offers a meditative respite from the daily hustle without requiring the trained mental focus of meditation
And science agrees.
A 2005 study by Cambridge University found that “expressive writing” has measurable psychological and physical benefits.
In the short-term, the study found that participants encouraged to write about troubling or difficult moments in their lives experienced an“ increase in distress, negative mood and physical symptoms, and a decrease in positive mood compared with controls.”
However, in the long term, the study found that the participants who completed this “expressive writing” exhibited such effects as:
- Improved mood/affect
- Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor
- Fewer days in the hospital
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced absenteeism from work
- Higher students’ grade point average
- Improved working memory
- Improved sporting performance
What is Jour
With Jour, we’ve created a mobile app that brings the practice of journaling to your phone.
We’ve included a free writing space, for users that want to reflect and write without guides or limitations. And for those journalers that want a more interactive, step-by-step process, we’ve included guided Journeys, which focus on specific sentiments or desire for growth.
Our goal is the make the cathartic, cost-effective and empowering practice of journaling convenient. And, in the process, to start helping people feel better.
Thank you to our beta testers and people pre-ordering our app on the App Store every day. The feedback we’re getting every day is helping us build the best possible experience. Thanks to our mental health advisors who are helping us make the most impact.