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Reflections – Am I nuts or has everybody gone crazy?

It seems next to the Trump hush money trial, the raunchy Tom Brady roast, the debate over whether artificial intelligence is too smart for us, why Taylor Swift’s music makes ferns grow faster and the weather, of course, all we talk about these days is mental health.

Fortunately, the stigma once attached to mental illness has been muted to a degree by more enlightened times. But has the pendulum swung too far? Mental health, once ushered off to the wings, now occupies center stage in many discussions.

But is there too much conversation about mental illness issues on mainstream and social media? Could it be that all the chatter is planting some roots that burrow deep into psyches?

Mike Zielinski
Mike Zielinski

Granted, if there is a time to address the subject, it’s now. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been observed in the United States since 1949. The fact that I too was hatched in 1949 is pure coincidence.  At least that’s what my psychiatrist tells me.

Millions of Americans live with the nightmare of mental health conditions and reportedly their number is growing. Anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, sleep-wake disorders and substance-related disorders head the list.

It seems to me we have to bring more order to all that disorder. If a courtroom had as much disorder as the current American state of mind, you’d have to conclude that one Donald J. Trump was the defendant.

You could fill Citizens Bank Park with all the risk factors that contribute to the development of mental health conditions.

Our mental serenity can be shredded into lunchmeat by adverse childhood experiences, alcohol and/or drug use, biological factors, genetic factors, brain-based chemical imbalances, feelings of isolation and loneliness (especially among those who choose to sequester with their phones instead of mingling), identity issues, significant life changes, traumatic brain injuries, traumatic experiences, menopause, postpartum depression and too much toxic exposure to “Today” and “Good Morning America” programming.

Speaking of sinister screen time, social media use and/or abuse can drive you nuttier than a fruitcake. Unhealthy behaviors associated with social media include comparing oneself excessively to others, cyberbullying and experiencing the fear of missing out (FOMO).

We all can relate to the horrors of social media. Whenever I compare myself to Brad Pitt’s looks, I look in the mirror and wince. And then there’s FOMO. I’m still running around in my backyard screaming like a banshee because I missed out on being one of Tom Brady’s roasters.

A lack of access to care evidently is contributing to the rise of mental health issues. Some people are left untreated because they lack insurance or live in remote areas that are crawling with coyotes but not psychologists.

Perhaps the increase in mental health issues also piggybacks on all the attention the subject receives.

I suspect we talk too much about mental health. If mental illness concerns are constant drum beats in your mind, you can wind up thinking you’re nuts. If sometimes you feel like a nut, sooner or later you’ll always feel like a nut.

My hunch was validated by Ellen Barry’s recent article in the New York Times. She wrote that recent studies cast doubt on whether large-scale mental health interventions are making young people better. Some even suggest they can have a negative effect.

In recent years, mental health has become a central subject in childhood and adolescence. School systems, alarmed by rising levels of distress and self-harm, are introducing preventive coursework in emotional self-regulation and mindfulness.

We treat kids as if they all are as fragile as Venetian chandeliers and whose minds are loaded with lightning bugs. Most children are not in dire need of a mental relief convoy.

Indeed, some researchers now warn that we are in danger of overdoing it. Mental health awareness campaigns, they argue, help some young people identify disorders that badly need treatment — but they have a negative effect on others, leading them to over-interpret their symptoms and see themselves as more troubled than they are.

Call it hypochondria of the mind. Anxiety is a constant traveling companion as we navigate life’s travails. But when we develop excessive anxiety issues over our perfectly natural anxiety, that’s when we dive down the rabbit’s hole.

We overcoddle our kids and ourselves. Sometimes you’ve just got to show some inner resolve. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” is more than just a catch phrase uttered by every football coach since Knute Rockne.

I’m no mental health expert, but I did ace a psych course in college despite frequently nodding off in class because the boring proof could put you to sleep faster than anesthesia.

In my uneducated opinion, it’s fine to have mental health awareness. Just don’t obsessively dwell on it until you’re being fitted for a straitjacket.

And never, ever listen to “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince & The Revolution.


Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.


Source: Berkshire mont

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