Yesterday, I shared an article written by an American psychology professor that was published in the Wall Street Journal about two months ago, which showed that the rate of “functional mental illness” is higher in Western countries and especially in liberal democracies than in authoritarian or Eastern countries, where rates of “functional mental illness” are either low or perhaps even non-existent. Why this is the case, according to the author, is due to two things, namely, empire and hegemony as well as the loss of morals and values in the West. The author noted the improvement of public health and mental health in the United Kingdom after its empire collapsed in the latter half of the 20th century, which reinforces the point that empire and hegemony are largely behind the increase of mental illness in America, in addition to the loss of morals and values which comes from imperial and hegemonic behavior and policies. I should note that these are points which I have been trying to make all along. Also, social maladies such as alcoholism, hopelessness, and a general loss of morals and values were evident during the peak and soon after the collapse of the Soviet empire towards the end of the 20th century.
And as things stand in America at the moment, about one in five individuals suffer from some sort of mental illness. But the number could be much higher, given that approximately two-thirds of people with a mental illness are left unnoticed and untreated. Moreover, virtually all Americans are united over the notion that there is a mental health crisis or epidemic that is plaguing their country, despite their partisan or ideological differences. Also, the failure of the federal government to address the mental health crisis and epidemic is demonstrated by the fact that there are more Americans with mental illnesses in jails and prisons than in hospitals and asylums. Thus, the approach which the local, state, and federal levels of government in America have taken towards the mental health crisis and epidemic in their country is to jail and imprison virtually anyone, but especially people of color, which is far from being an actual cure or solution for the underlying causes and explanations for the mental health crisis and epidemic.
Hence, according to the ‘American Civil Liberties Union’ (ACLU), the United States wields approximately 20 percent of the world’s prison population, despite wielding only about 4 or 5 percent of the world’s overall population. American taxpayers spend about 80 billion dollars per year to maintain the country’s prison system, which is money that can be spent on either education, health care, or universal basic income in order to lower the crime rate. In turn, the rate of incarceration has increased by 500 percent in America since the year 1970, according to the ACLU. Another interesting statistic shared by the ACLU is that Black Americans are ten times likelier than White Americans to get arrested for a drug offense, even though Blacks and Whites both use drugs at the same rate. As a result, mass incarceration in America has been dubbed by some as the “New Jim Crow.” Whereas one in three black children are likely to go to prison in their lifetime, only one out of seventeen white children are likely to go to prison in their lifetime. Whether all of this is accidental or by design is up for debate. But the likelihood is that the latter scenario is most plausible, and it is something which many of us can perhaps agree on and then resolve, despite our ideological, partisan, or racial differences.