If you’ve ever pointed to a spot on a map and thought “I’d be so happy living here,”.
Despite having more mental health research at our fingertips than ever before. Poor mental health continues to be a problem worldwide. We took a look at mental health ratings and approaches around the world. And it taught us a lot about how underlying cultural causes can create their own regional issues. We also found ways we, as a society and as individuals, can help lift each other up.
The United States has been rated as one of the most depressed countries in the world. In 2017, reported that 46.6 million U.S adults live with a mental illness. That’s 1 in 5 American adults. And the top three affected in the demographic groups were American Indian or Alaskan native people.
Mental health conditions can be caused by a range of factors and history being one of them. Trauma is inherited, and some issues are truly generational. Joseph P. Gone is a Professor of Anthropology, Global Health, and Social Medicine at Harvard University. He says identity plays an important role in our mental health – particularly for American Indian people:
“Most communities recognize that our long experiences of being colonized, subjugated, and denigrated by outsiders. And also, have given rise to many of our contemporary mental health issues,” says Joseph P. Gone; a Professor of Anthropology, Global Health, and Social Medicine at Harvard University.
“In pre-reservation times, these problems seemed less prevalent and were not necessarily thought of as distinct from other health concerns,”. Gone continues. “Like health in general, these problems conceive with reference to spirituality. Sacred prayers and related ceremonial activities may have been the prescribed ‘treatments.’
Modern native Americans take part in modern treatments. Such as counseling and medication, but prayer and ceremony continue to play an important role. Likewise, a recent increase in spiritual practices is also sweeping the world of American health and wellness, whether someone is of indegenious lineage or not. Also, just be sure to honor the history of any spiritual practices you find interesting, and be wary of misguided appropriation.
With 1.353 billion people, India also has the second-largest population in the world (second only to China’s 1.393 billion). It’s vast, historically-rich landscape is home to a myriad of ancient customs, varying religions and modern technology, all of which coalesce into a vibrant and important culture. Unfortunately, it’s also a place of great conflict.
In India, a reported 1 in 7 people suffer from mental illness, with anxiety and depression being experienced the most. Along with the US, India ranked as one of the most depressed countries in the world.
“As in any large population, there is no one way in which the people of India, who subscribe to diverse cultural traditions, seek care for mental health problems,” says Harvard Medical School Professor Vikram Patel. “They may use any one or more of these approaches at any time, including self-care practices such as meditation, folk herbal remedies, seeking help from family members or friends, seeking spiritual guidance from a priest, and consulting a practitioner of one of the traditional systems of medicine or modern biomedicine.”
This small country is bursting with diverse cultural practices – but its history of healing all began within Maori tribes.
“Traditionally, Māori treated mental health issues from a mātauranga Māori lens, utilizing Māori ways of being, doing, and knowing,” explains Massey University Senior Lecturer Hannah Mooney. “There were (and still are) many pūrākau (stories). And spiritual practices that fostered connections to the environment and people. Generally, as a people impacted by colonization, the continual advancement of Māori is important as cultural identity, whānau ora (extended family wellbeing), and mental wellbeing as synonymous. Māori are working hard to have more of this view recognized and to revive practices in mental health that once seemed lost.”
CNN Travel has ranked New Zealand as one of the happiest countries in the world – placing the country at number eight. According to stats.govt.nz, 1 in 4 New Zealanders over the age of 18 experience poor mental wellbeing.
This island nation is neither one of the happiest places on earth, nor is it one of the most depressed. It also lands somewhere in the middle, but Columbia University’s Psychology Professor Kathleen Pike says the Japanese often struggle to seek and attain professional support.
“The stigma associated with mental illness has been a significant barrier to care,” she says. “We are seeing a steady growth in understanding mental illness. And also concerted public health campaigns to eliminate shame, discrimination, and prejudice. Japan has been a leader in developing return-to-work programs for individuals with mental disorders, especially individuals with work-related burnout, stress, depression and anxiety. Japan is also expanding its training programs in psychotherapy and expanding professional expertise in evidence-based psychotherapy, with a steady growth of psychologists in the country.”
Voted as one of the world’s happiest countries for three years in a row. Finland also has a lot to teach the rest of us about supporting mental wellbeing within the community.
Jeffrey Sachs, one of the editors of the UN’s World Happiness Report. Recently told Independent that the country’s results are largely related to “good social support networks, social trust, honest governments, safe environments and healthy lives.”
Forbes published an article stating that it’s a country “where all conceivable basic needs are met.”
“The hope is that the example Finland is setting helps other countries to better care for their people,” article states. “The fact that the country continues to pioneer social and economic welfare, education, and working best-practice is something of which other countries should take note when looking at improving the happiness of their people.”
If you are struggling with your mental health, help is just a call away. Lifeline offers free, confidential support across the United States.