The Crazy Americans
A myth that is perpetuated by many Brazilians is that there are many mentally ill people in America compared to other countries. Mental illness is a condition that can affect any human being, anywhere.
America has a higher number of serial killers, although the crime du jour seems to be senseless shootings of as many people as possible. Brazilians like to say that in Brazil there are more crimes of passion while America has more crimes of hate. In reality, there is a lot more crime per capta in Brazil, fueled by money and goods (cell phones, watches, cars..).
When it comes to the urban myth that Americans are crazier than other nationalities -which can encompass from slightly nerdy to violently murderous-here are some possibilities:
1) The nuclear family is less prevalent in America. Many single parents, higher divorce rates, more lonely seniors, more never-married folks.
2) The decentralized cities, the far-out suburbs, higher dependency on individual cars instead of walking and public transportation; less human contact overall.
3) Winter. Long months of short days, grey skies, uninviting cold temperatures that make people cocoon. It is well known that people get more depressed in the winter and rainy days.
4) The Protestant work ethic. More work, less play. Long hours, 3 jobs, long commutes. Less time for family, friends and community.
5) A more materialistic society. Acquiring goods only promotes temporary happiness. There are many poor folks in developing countries that claim to be very happy with very little.
6) The gun culture. The “cowboy and war movie” culture. The glorification of violence instead of diplomacy and negotiation.
7) Lifestyle. More processed foods, less fresh fruit and vegetables. Less walking and biking compared to other countries. Low nutrition diets and lack of exercise do not promote mental health.
8) Extreme individuality. The idea that everyone can “pull themselves through their bootstraps” makes people not look for help and suffer alone. Selfishness in intimate relationships that makes people never commit because they are waiting for the bigger better deal.
9) The cost of therapy. Mental health was not included in many health plans. Now, under the ACA, it will be. Nevertheless, most people cannot pay their share of the cost. Free services are few and sometimes not quality based, and people do not know where to find it. Clergy do not have the qualifications to help mentally ill people and sometimes only make it worse with religious prejudice.
Here are some staggering statistics about mental health in the US vs the rest of the world (from 2004): http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20040601/rate-of-mental-illness-is-staggering
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