Fox News, a cable news channel known for being right-wing biased, while desperately clinging to their “fair and balanced” marketing ploy, took a step in the right direction when they interviewed their psychiatric correspondent, Dr. Keith Ablow early last week.
Dr. Ablow’s segment focused on a study that was released on Monday, January 11th, (2010) in relation to the sizeable increase of mental illnesses found in today’s youth.
The study, lead by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, and involving five other researchers from various universities, found that five times as many high school and college students are dealing with mental health issues than youth of the same age studied in the Great Depression era.
Dr. Twenge and her fellow researchers examined the responses of over 77,500 high school and college students from the years 1938 to 2007, who took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Iventory test, (MMPI) a test that is frequently used by mental health professionals to diagnose personality structures and psychopathology.
Along with an increase in depression, Dr. Twenge and company found, not surprisingly, that there was a six percent increase in mood, personality, and anxiety disorders- one percent more than the five percent overall average increase on the test.
So, just what do these professionals think has caused such an increase in mental health issues? Dr. Twenge has already published a book titled, “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled- and More Miserable Than Ever Before,” which puts emphasis on the influence pop culture’s pressures have put on young people. Pressures such as wealth, status, and flawless beauty- just to name a few. But Dr. Twenge also notes the rise in divorce among parents and the number of infamous “stage parents” who create unrealistic expectations for their children, which in turn can cause instability, disappointment, grandiosity, anxiety, and a lack of coping skills.
Dr. Ablow, however, places the blame solely on “our young people, who are drugging themselves by the tens of millions every single day with a combination of celebrity worship, dreams of unlimited wealth, and handy ways to stay away from anything like reality. They’re losing their ability to process genuine emotion, diving into a Web of Facebook, YouTube, trophies for everything, iPhones, e-mail and Twitter.”
I can certainly see some of the reasoning behind these allegations, but Dr. Ablow in particular, is leaving out some truly critical factors. Genetics and environment often play a major role in ones propensity to inherit a mental illness. Most of the mental health consumers I’ve associated with have been victims of abusive home environments, whether they’ve been physically or emotionally abused, neglected, or watched their parents violent behavior towards one another. Others still, have been victims of some form of sexual abuse. And some have had a long history of mental illness in their family, or a combination of all of the above.
Whatever the conclusion is, it’s clear that our country needs to put some serious accentuation on mental health and its research, or as Dr. Ablow says, “losing this battle will devastate more than one generation and cost us trillions.”