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Who’s driving you crazy?

Are boomers busy, busy, busy because they’re filled with anxiety and don’t know how to enjoy down time?

That’s what Jennifer Nicholson Graham contends in her article “American Idle: Never Before Has an Entire Generation Had So Much Time in Which to Do So Little,” which appeared in The Boston Globe

When I read the article, it didn’t ring true for me. There’s so much to do these days: run the household, work, cook, clean, help with the grandchildren, take care of the yard, blog, visit friends, buy clothes, exercise, file articles, pay bills, wash the car, take care of my health, do the laundry, help relatives, help friends, participate in community activities, go to church, be an informed voter, and many other tasks.

Life is busy, busy, busy because we have so many things that need to be done.

To me, it doesn’t seem that boomers run from one task to the other because they feel uneasy with nothing to do.

I decided not to blog about Graham’s article, because, although it was cleverly written, I didn’t think she came to a conclusion that offered a big truth.

But her article came to mind when I listened to a National Public Radio program in which Stephen Bezruchka, M.D., discussed his book “Is America Driving You Crazy?” Bezruchka teaches at the University of Washington and works as an emergency room physician in Seattle, Washington.

Mental illness rate high in U.S.

America has the highest rate of mental illness in the world, he said in his talk. The number of Americans suffering from mental illness has nearly doubled since 1987. That's when Prozac, the first of the "wonder drugs," was introduced.

Mental disorders are reported in more than 25 percent of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. More than one in four college students are now on anti-depressants. The number of children taking drugs for behavior disorders and depression increased six fold between 1993 and 2002.

Depression and anxiety increasing despite new drugs for treatment

Even with all the new drugs available for treatment, depression and anxiety disorders continue to rise.

Bezruchka believes our drug-based system of care is fueling this epidemic. The drugs used to treat depression and mental illness cause problems when used long term.

Public policy changes needed

He would like to see public policies changed on how mental illness is treated and how children are cared for.

In the first two years of life, children form attachments to the two main figures in their lives. In Sweden, both parents are given a year of mandatory maternity leave with full pay. They have an option for a second year at 80 percent pay. Then government-sponsored day care is available, operated by teachers who must have a master’s degree.

In America, neo-economic theory, where money trickles down from the rich to the working people, makes it difficult for people to make ends meet, causing stress in their lives.

Before America’s total reliance on drugs to treat mental illness, the people with mental illnesses received treatment in therapeutic communities.

Bezruchka would like to see America develop a therapeutic society where people have real, stable, face-to-face encounters. People need community, respect, friendship, and support. This is less likely to happen when a big gap between occurs the rich and poor.

He urges people to work together to being about changes that will improve America’s support systems and mental health.

I think Bezruchka has done some good thinking about why Americans live stressful lives.

Click on the link above to hear his talk.

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