U.S. Surgeon Generals, psychiatrists and all manner of sensible people are aware that vast numbers of American are somewhat unhinged. One former Surgeon General, namely David Satcher, released an exhaustive review of research on mental health in 2001 which revealed that one in five Americans has mental disorders. The latest official count of the U.S. population (as of the start of 2015) was 320 million, meaning there are 64 million loonies walking the streets unsupervised.
Today, Dr. Satcher's one in five estimate is widely viewed as an extreme example of cockeyed optimism, a Panglossian fantasy bearing little connection with reality. Have you paid attention to the Republican presidential debates? These politicians have tens of millions of supporters. One in five out of touch with reality? You have to be kidding.
Consider a few factors indicative of mental disorders:
* Polling results showing that tens of millions of Americans are seriously considering voting for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or others of their ilk.
* The extent of violence in this country.
* Our infatuation with guns.
* The incidence of drug, tobacco, alcohol and other hazardous addictions.
* The prevalence of lifestyle norms that have led to a medical system that costs 3.2 trillion dollars annually.
* The number of citizens bound and otherwise attached to implausible, improbable and quite ludicrous doctrines, rituals and beliefs for which there is not a shred of evidence. In light of all this, it seems hard to defend a ratio of less than four in five Americans with mental disorders.
Thus, we have 256 million loonies walking the streets unsupervised.
Be afraid and very nervous. At first, then get over it. Take steps, however, to limit your risks. Here are a few suggestions:
* Seek help, if you fit any of the categories I mentioned above.
* Encourage everyone you know to be alert to signs and symptoms when out and about in close proximity to the 80 percent in real need of a wellness adjustment or other, more drastic interventions. This is especially important if you live in a state like Florida, where the overwhelming Republican legislature and governor are seriously promoting a law that would allow people to carry guns openly, just about anywhere, including bars, college campuses and sporting events.
What could possibly go wrong if this bill is enacted into law?
When Dr. Satcher released his estimate of one in five with mental disorders, he called for new laws to require insurance companies to treat mental and physical health problems equally. Well, I wonder how long insurance companies would stay in business if that had happened, even if the number of eligible citizens were 64 million, not the more realistic 256 million who would have qualified?
Not long, of course, unless the federal government funded and managed the mental health campaign. Revenues would be needed from many sources, hopefully including the one percenters. After all, they're the ones who control the nation's resources and thereby drive economic Downstreamers a little crazy.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A MENTAL ORDER?
Mental health is described as an ability to engage in productive activities, to fulfill relationships with others, adapt to change and cope with adversity. Go count the number of folks you work with who pass that test! Consider the quality of functioning and the lifestyles of people you know - their ability to adapt to change, to cope with adversity - and then ask yourself: “How many of every five that you know meet the test of mental well being?”
Like exercise for toning muscles, mental training can make you more well in non-physical ways. Therefore, it seems wise to invest attention into basic mental workouts, such as the following:
* Find ways to enjoy your work; if you can’t do that, look for other employment that you will enjoy to some extent.
* Develop a sense of humor that allows you to fill your days with enjoyment and play.
* Learn to think well - become a critical critical decision-maker armed with doubt, skepticism and a willingness to look for evidence in order not to be defrauded by promoters of useless products and senseless belief systems as to why we're here and what it's all about.
* Cultivate an ability to communicate with honesty and candor - and to choose your political affiliations with a kindly, generous spirit with concern for acceptance, tolerance and the rights of all.
* Find multiple ways to delight in the expression of your gifts and talents.
These are just starter tips. And, I regret to advise, beneficial but not sufficient. Something much more dramatic will be necessary.
We have just had another Super Bowl, number 50 in the annual circus. Consider the obsession that large numbers of people have with sports teams! Then recall Dave Barry's essay, “Sixteen Things That it Took Me 50 Years to Learn.” One of the sixteen was, “There is a very fine line between hobby and mental illness.” Along these lines, Larry Dickerson quipped, “People who believe in phrenology should have their heads examined.”
In one form or another, it looks like four in five are devout subscribers to beliefs much less rational than phrenology.
To adapt and cope, flourish, and prosper in this life, you should care for your body and mind. Also exercise vigorously nearly every day, dine wisely, be responsible for your health and fate, find ways to make life in general and work in particular challenging and satisfying, be kind and generous with others and continually seek ways to nourish your existence. “The improved man,” as Ingersoll suggested, “will find his greatest joy in the happiness of others and he will reap his greatest reward in being loved by those whose lives he has enriched.”
To change and adapt is a minimal requirement for mental health. Don't settle for eliminating one or more mental disorder. Set higher sights, and transcend the norms - they're all too low.
It's not enough NOT be crazy, difficult as that is for four of five Americans.
And, it is not enough to do all the things I suggested. One more step for each man and woman and giant leap for mankind is required. A new religion.
A NEW RELIGION
If you could invent a religion, what would it look like? You might ask yourself, “Why would I want to do that?” Well, that would be a good question. We're in the information age, there's been a scientific revolution, we've sent a space probe beyond the solar system and wonders not only never cease - they're heralded daily on TV, newspapers and the internet. Religions are myths and superstitions - haven't we got too many of such antediluvian systems of prejudice already?
The question arises because a recent Huffington Post article on January 20th described a contest seeking ideas for a new religion. Not being enamored of any of the tens of thousands of religions invented since early man took up bipedalism, especially the latest versions that animate followers of one to wreak havoc on the followers of others, I thought, "Hey, maybe I can get a religion after all. All that's required is that I make one up.”
So, I checked out the contest details, followed the links to sponsoring organizations and pondered qualities I'd like to see in a religion, if I could invent one. My interest increased when I read the winner's prize is $5,000.
Here are key details and rules - maybe you might like to try your hand at inventing a religion. Surely you can do as well as the ancient nincompoops who invented those on offer today. In 300 words or less, contestants should note how their religion could:
* Change the world for the better.
* Act as a powerful force for good.
* Offer hypothetical rituals, holidays and traditions that would make the new religion unique.
Sponsors include the 92nd Street Y (a Jewish non-profit cultural center, not part of the YMCA), the website On Being and the John Templeton Foundation. The contest ends on February 14.
MY ENTRY IN THE CONTEST: REASONISM
Reasonism will be a religion that guides the world toward the better natures of our essence. It will cut across boundaries, strengthen our sense of community and act as a force of good. Reasonism will be a rational guide to well-founded beliefs.
Reasonism will complement all the suggestions recommended above for addressing the widespread crisis of mental disorders and go a giant step beyond by addressing a foundation causal agent of mental disturbances - religion.
If it’s true, as some have maintained over the course of human history, that mankind needs some kind of religion, then Reasonism might fill the bill.
The core values of Reasonism will be:
* No one true religion claims.
* Allows for unlimited schisms.
* No clergy, no churches and no subsidies from non-members (e.g. taxpayers) required.
* Empowers adherents.
* Promotes science, exploration, learning and kindness.
* Focuses on solutions to challenges in the life we know.
* No holy books, no punishments and no evangelizing.
* A faith in evidence philosophy that improves the world.
Reasonism will be a philosophy that affirms the ethical commitments of existing religious structures and communities that inspire personal fulfillment and the greater good for all humanity.
It will be a religion guided by reason, compassion and experience; Reasonism will celebrate living well and fully.
It will welcome new knowledge and understanding derived by observation, experimentation and rational analysis.
The rituals created by Reasonism's adherents will celebrate joy, advance justice, demonstrate mercy, respect truth, embrace freedom, cultivate courage, accept reality, love nature and endeavor to make our fellow creatures happy.
As for holidays, with Reasonism every day will be seen and appreciated as a holiday, every dawn a holy night. The traditions of Reasonism will be created through natural selection, as generation after generation of Reasonists embrace and treasure adaptations that become traditions - all based upon customs that best embody the religion's creed of joy, justice, mercy, truth, freedom, courage, reality, nature and ways that make others happy.
In time, perhaps former Surgeon General David Satcher’s optimistic view that only one in five Americans has mental disorders will come to pass - and in due time, we may reach a point where only one in 50, or one in a thousand, are mental as Reasonism leads to a contagion of Real wellness, physical as well as mental. “A consummation devoutedly to be wished”, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet might have expressed this vision for Reasonism in America.