1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, according to Mind. How we cope with those problems is changing: incidents of suicide and self harm are increasing. Rates of violent crime are also increasing.
Of course how these are reported will skew the figures from one year to the next; and rising awareness will also raise the figures. But all things being equal, let’s assume the trend is upwards. What could be causing it?
Is it because of cuts to those agencies that would otherwise be policing external factors affecting our mental health? I’m thinking of Local Authority noise pollution and environmental protection teams, social workers, support workers in schools and housing, community policing, even support offered by employers.
Or is it more to do with technology that creates more of those external factors? Online banking is incredibly frustrating, but add to that the fickleness of broadband, the hassle of customer support, the built-in obsolescence and dependency that drives our use of technology.
Then consider how much of that technology also undermines our ability to cope: the endless distractions, the corner of your brain that’s permanently listening out for the pings from your smartphone, the other corner of your brain that’s scanning for great Instagram posts. Our addiction to dopamine hits seems to be inhibiting our ability to deal with a lot of modern life.
Or is it because the gap between rich and poor is now so great that it’s more and more noticeable, and the risks of failure that much more serious?
Most probably it’s a combination of all of those, and other factors. Austerity, growing inequality, less regulation, more technology, greater competition, more serious implications of poverty and greater visibility of the lifestyles of the rich and famous – they’re all making us ill, and we’re less able to cope.