Have you ever watched goons with torches at neo-Nazi rallies and wondered, “Are these people mad?”
Note: This concerns mental illness. No disrespect is intended to its victims, only heartfelt sympathy. If you cannot face this topic, stop right here.
I was once a social worker with mental health cases. They were heart-rending. One is accordingly pleased that mental health is getting more attention. Britain’s Prince Harry makes no secret of the depression that once plagued him. He is lifting the stigma surrounding the issue.
But America is regressing. Few health plans cover mental health satisfactorily. Moreover, millions have no health insurance at all as a result of high health care costs and low wages. Low wages not only restrict economic growth, they produce other problems. Inequality actually hurts people.
The Equality Trust, based in Britain, sponsored research by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. Their 2009 book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, measures the “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies.” They looked at 11 problem areas: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being.
Outcomes are significantly worse in the more unequal countries. The Spirit Level shows a close correlation between income inequality and mental illness in 12 developed countries. The same is true for the American states. This is not hard to figure out. More inequality produces more poverty. More poverty produces more mental illness. Grinding poverty . . . grinds you down.
With more equality, however, fewer people get mental problems. Fewer people get depressed from comparing themselves with their more successful peers. Unfortunately the chart showing this correlation cannot be reproduced here. It can however be seen at:
Look for the chart entitled “The Prevalence of Mental Illness is Higher in More Unequal Rich Countries.” You will see income inequality, in ascending order, in Japan, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, France, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, UK and America. Directly related to this order are their mental health problems, with Japan again the best and America again the worst.
We know this data from the World Health Organization. It recently established mental health surveys. These show that different societies have very different levels of mental illness. In some countries, only 5 percent of the adult population was found to suffer from illness in the previous year. But in the U.S., it was more than 25 percent.
America’s high inequality and high poverty rates produce high mental illness rates. Moreover, our high rates of gun ownership produce far more mass murders. From the numbers, America is the most unequal, the most mentally ill and the most violent of the 12 major developed countries. Within America, Republican states are the worst.
Again, this is not hard to figure out. After 35 years, nothing has “trickled down” from Reaganomics. Red states are the poorest in the nation. They have been hit the hardest by Republican policies expressly making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Even the International Monetary Fund has criticized America’s poverty. So has the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, for crying out loud!
Republican politicians have mastered the art of getting through to Red-state voters. But the GOP could not give two hoots for them. Today’s GOP is a system of conveyor belts taking their money, and your money — and your kids’ money, and even your grandkids’ money — to America’s royal families via tax cuts put onto National Debt. The top 0.1 percent of this nation bankroll Republican politicians and laugh all the way to the bank.
Because this happened gradually, however, dirt-poor rednecks have not noticed how they ended up with more poverty and more mental illness. This creates more inequality and more illness, galloping on, ad infinitum. For that extra lunacy, Big Pharma steers millions of opioid pills to economically depressed Red states and turns doctors into drug-pushers. Suicides in America have increased by 25 percent since 2000. Many are drug-related.
For that final head-bonking lunacy, Republicans have been conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs to hate Obamacare. Many Red-state governors refused to implement it, even though the concept came from the conservative Heritage Foundation. The GOP tried to kill Obamacare in 2017, knowing perfectly well that thousands would die as a result, including dirt-poor Republicans. Mercifully, the bill failed in the Senate thanks to the late John McCain (R-Arizona). McCain stood up to the madness that has taken over the GOP.
Take heart, my friends. Americans turned out in droves and reclaimed the House. This will stop the madness getting any worse, at least after January 2019. But cross your fingers until then because all sorts of madness could still break out.
Editor’s note: In a recent government report on youth in Japan, more Japanese children and teenagers killed themselves between 2016 and 2017 than in any year since 1986 (“Japan’s youth suicide rate highest in 30 years,” Nov. 6, CNN)