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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

What do We Actually Mean by A Mental Health Crisis?

Throughout the news and media in the United States, it is blasted that we are enduring a “mental health crisis.”

Almost every time I tell someone I’m a mental health therapist, they bring up our mental health crisis.

But what do we actually mean when we say that?

I see the evidence that everyone points to: the rise in gun violence, suicide, depression and anxiety in youth, and more.

People talk about needing better mental health care and education. They mention needing more counselors and ways to identify problems early.

All of that is true.

AND, it does not address the root cause.

I think a “mental health crisis” is really a systemic crisis. Our mental health crisis is a direct result of our culture and systems failing the well-being of human beings.

Individuals need basic things to survive: shelter, food, water, and security.

When these things are threatened, people begin to experience anxiety. In our modern age, that can look like a person who:

  • Worries their illness might bankrupt them

  • Is concerned that with current inflation rates they won’t be able to buy the basic necessities for their family

  • Works a full-time job, but it still isn’t enough to cover their bills

  • Endures a slow flow of sexual harassment

  • Knows if they lose their job, they also lose health care for their family

  • Fears they cannot protect their child from a random act of violence

  • Worries that climate change will result in their current city being inhospitable (due to rising water, natural disaster, shrinking water supply, etc.)

  • Fears for their physical safety as they walk down the street due to their race

A painting of a yellow person amidst orange and brown marks to depict our current mental health crisis
"Mental Health Crisis" Acrylic Paint by Jackie Schuld

In our country, it is very easy to fall into fear about life essentials: health care, food/water, safety, etc. Our systemic injustices make life incredibly difficult. Daily experiences of poverty, racism, misogyny, patriarchy, white colonialism, and more are grating on the human soul.

While these are not new challenges to humans, what is new is the lack of support. In former times, we had a small community directly around us that we knew we could rely on. Even if a war was at hand or a famine was present, no one was alone. They were enduring with others and supporting each other through it.

In our culture today, most people feel very alone. Most people do not feel they have a community.

So when people begin to worry about the essentials of life and have no community to turn to, this naturally leads to feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopefulness. Read: A mental health crisis.

Yes, mental health care, education, and therapists can help.

But that’s not the ultimate solution.

We need to look at the causes.

1 Comment

Barbara Robertson
Barbara Robertson
Jul 04, 2022

Thank you for articulating those catalysts for crisis. And for inviting me to connect. Well said; I look forward to reading more of what you have to share.


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