The Year of Mental Health. Wrong Answer.
In his State of the State address, Tony Evers declared 2023 Wisconsin’s “Year of Mental Health.” He is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars for mental health services for Wisconsinites because "The state of mental health in Wisconsin is a quiet, burgeoning crisis that I believe will have catastrophic consequences for generations if we don’t treat it with the urgency it requires."
There was no mention of how this money will improve our mental wellbeing or what outcomes we can expect. The pandemic was once again blamed, though we have been in decline for decades. Unless we honestly confront the root causes of mental distress, we will waste millions while continuing down the path we’re on.
A good starting point for making the course correction we desperately need is getting our priorities straight. A recent survey of young adults asked where they would put their time and energy to invest in their future “best self.” 80% said they want to get rich and 50% said they want to be famous.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development is a rare, multigenerational look over 85 years at the lives of 724 men from all walks of life. Sixty of those men are alive today and in their 90’s. Over time the study expanded to include more than 2,000 of their immediate family members.
The study’s clearest message is, without question, good relationships are the most significant determinant of happiness. Human connections are vital to our wellbeing and the quality of the study participants’ relationships was the strongest predictor of how physically and mentally healthy they were in their 80’s.
This study affirms what we already know from life experience and its director concludes this wisdom is “as old as the hills”; but “we are a society that wants a quick fix and the hard work of families and relationships is life-long”.
Since 1993, every two years the CDC administers the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to high school students across the country. The latest results show a steep decline over the past decade.
In Wisconsin 1,838 students participated. 52% reported significant problems with anxiety. 33% say they have felt sadness or hopelessness so significant they stopped normal activities. 18% say they seriously considered suicide and 8.5% report they attempted suicide. This is an indictment of a sick society.
Tony Evers has requested $270 million for comprehensive mental health services in schools and increased school-based mental health professionals. CDC Adolescent and School Health Director Kathleen Ethier claims, “With the right programs and services in place schools have the unique opportunity to help our youth flourish.” That’s a lie.
The answer is not the government. The liberal political ideology of dependence contributes to the learned helplessness that is destroying people. The answer is not the schools. They can’t even teach the fundamentals of reading and math. The answer is not the medical community. They squandered our trust by politicizing science and supporting transgender interventions and radical obesity treatment for children. The answer is not the pharmaceutical companies. They make $37 billion annually on mental health drugs (projected to reach $59 billion by 2031). They inundate us with ads to convince us there is a pill for everything and try to normalize perverse behavior.
The answer is the family. A great deal of our chronic physical illness and mental distress is a direct result of how we are living. The family’s primary work is teaching children how to live, and society cannot compensate when the family fails to do its work.
The expectations children have of life, and the skills they develop to deal with life’s inevitable ups and downs, are part of teaching them how to live. They must understand it’s normal to feel the full range of human emotions in response to life events and have confidence that they can develop the resilience to meet whatever challenges life brings their way. They learn from the example and guidance of engaged parents. Adolescence is a tumultuous time of self-discovery and growing independence under the best of circumstances. There is a sick effort underway to promote a narrative of widespread mental illness. Those who seek to lead create division, turmoil, and confusion by telling lies about gender, oppression, and victimization and then ask the kids how sad they are and if they want to kill themselves. It’s such a waste that every child is not being taught to experience the magnificence of life.
Many have thrown truth and personal responsibility by the wayside. There will be no inner peace or true happiness without a return to these fundamentals. Following anyone other than ourselves, guided by our own good judgement, on the critical matter of our mental health and that of our children, would be a sure sign we’ve lost our minds.