We might be on our way to leaving the Covid-19 pandemic behind us, but a larger threat has been looming far longer.
With mental health conditions in American adults increasing by a staggering four times since 2019, nearly 20% of high school students reporting “serious thoughts of suicide” and studies linking leaders and CEOs to a twice as high risk of developing depression compared to the general population, no one seems to be safe from the steep decline of our collective well-being.
America is facing a growing mental health epidemic that has people struggling to enjoy life on the most basic of levels ––from job dissatisfaction and poor physical performance, to fighting inner demons and grasping at straws to avoid drowning from too much daily pressure. Far from affecting only the singular individual, the ramifications of this crisis are quickly spreading from one person to their families and communities, infecting both adults and children from all different walks of life.
And it all comes at a high cost.
The “global direct and indirect economic costs of mental disorders were estimated at US$2.5 trillion” in 2010, and the figures have only been rising since. In 2021, the self-improvement industry was a $41.7 billion industry, and it’s now on its way to reach $67 billion by 2030: through apps, books, programs, infomercials, seminars and Instagram ads, people are told to look for a solution outside of themselves, and when they can’t find the answers they were hoping for, they’re just told to pay some more. The next product will be one to change everything. Trust that you’re just one purchase away from fixing all your problems.
None of it is working, and the data backs it up. Things seem to only be getting worse.
So, what are we to do about it? First, throw out the antiquated concepts of “getting in touch with your feelings”’ and “getting outside your comfort zone”, which are equivalent to the marketing terms of “natural” and “organic” in the produce aisle: in today’s toxified world, they unfortunately mean little to nothing. Our resistance to radical change and killing our demons once and for all is exactly what’s keeping our society stuck in crisis mode.
I call for solutions that are the “antithesis” to personal development, because I’m sorry to say, buying program after program will not change anything for us.
This industry feeds off of our desire to be better people, our dreams of living a peaceful life, and it sells us shiny platitudes and neatly packaged knowledge bites in place of a true, deeper understanding of our own selves and our personal capacity for success.
This is true for ordinary people, but also Hollywood stars, politicians, and leading CEOs taking entire industries by storm. If Will Smith, Ben Affleck, or Kanye West, with all their money and fame, can’t seem to overhaul their lives so they can finally live from a place of joy and ease, how can any of us hope to find that balance? People in the public eye are leading us down their paths of wild unhappiness and dissatisfaction, some under the guise of authenticity and honesty, not realizing the damage being done.
Nothing simplistic can pluck us out of the dark holes life can present us with. Only by confronting reality and stripping ourselves bare can we really escape the suffering that seems to
leak out from each of us into society.
Sharpen your instincts and get ready to do things differently: seek out the warrior within yourself and face the inner demons wreaking havoc. Any solution that does not address this in some way will simply be a band-aid destined to lead you right back where you started.