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“Why is the Worlds Most Prosperous Nation so Depressed?”
September 20th, 2016

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The United States is the third most depressed country in the world according to new figures released by the World Health Organization. The US trailed only India and China while Germany, which came in 10th, was the only other Western nation to feature in the top 10. 
The figures may be skewed slightly due to under reporting in some poorer nations, experts warn that the reason America ranked so highly is likely due to certain factors which aren't as prevalent in some other nations.

Americans are under constant pressure to maintain a stable job, raise a successful family and pursue the 'Great American Dream'. This constant pressure seems to be taking its toll on their  mental health.  In some other nations, even ones with significantly lower living standards, the pressure to be successful simply isnt as intense and this may be why they have lower rates of mental illness. 

Part of the problem may also be attributed to lack of treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 5 Americans will experience some form of mental illness every year but less than half of those who do will receive any form of treatment. This is likely due to the stigma which still surrounds mental health issues, making people hesitant to seek help, as well as the lack of accessible mental health services.

In the United States there are 13 psychiatrists for every 100,00 people. In some Scandinavian countries that number can rise to as high as 30. The cost of certain medications in the US can also be prohibitively expensive, especially  for those from a lower socio-economic backgrounds.  

In the last couple of months both presidential candidates have announced plans to institute sweeping changes to the way mental health care is delivered but advocates remain skeptical.  This is not the first time politicians have promised to improve the system. Its always easier to make promises from the campaign trail than it is to bring about real change while in office. 

Whereas some people may struggle to access the right medications, the problem isnt necessarily a lack medication overall.  A recent study found that in 2010, doctors wrote out 280 million prescriptions for anti-depressants.

On average 1 in 10 Americans take anti-depressants on a regular basis and that number rises to 1 in 4 when you isolate the results to women in their 40s and 50s. Some doctors believe that Americans are actually being over medicated and that the rush to medicate patients, rather than offering appropriate counseling, may actually be making the problem worse.  

In order to lower that number of Americans who identify as depressed, a couple of things have to happen. The first is that mental health services need to become more readily available and easier to access. 

This will require a political solution and although voters can use their voices to call for change, whether that happens is really out of our hands. What is in our control is how Christians to respond to those who are suffering in our communities.

Christians need to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness and encourage people who need help to seek it.  Churches should also recognize their vital role as support networks for those going through a rough time. Many instances of depression are caused by isolation and loneliness, and its up to us to reach out to people who are lonely; to offer them friendship and fellowship. 

Christianity has a unique message of hope and joy which people suffering depression need to hear. We need to recognize that medical help and spiritual help are not mutually exclusive and that we can share the Gospel while also encouraging people to get the medical treatment they need. 

The truth is that what would lower depression rates the most is not more psychiatrists or more funding, though both of these things might help. Its everyone looking out for their neighbors and offering support when they need it the most. 

We need to be prepared to cross the road when we see that someone is in trouble. If we all did that, Im willing to bet America would soon drop to the bottom of the list.

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