What Do America’s Mental Health Crisis and Opioid Epidemic Have in Common?

by in Blog April 1, 2019

Around the country, the news is dire. Two of the fastest growing causes of death in young adults are opioid overdose and suicide. The link between these two is more than coincidence. It represents a growing sense of hopelessness and internal imbalance that is affecting American youth.

Depression and Suicide

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in the United States rose by 33% between 1999 and 2017, becoming the second leading cause of death among people under 35. Coaching Positive Performance suggest that our culture has failed to equip young people to deal with the modern world. When they struggle, they expect someone older to step in and help. Rather than learning to cope with negative feelings, they are instead encouraged to modify those feelings with medication. They aren’t treating the core problems they experience, which is a fundamental imbalance. Young people who consistently struggle with these issues may give up and take their own lives.

The Opioid Epidemic

The opioid crisis is a reflection of the same struggle. People are legally prescribed opioids to handle pain after an injury or medical procedure, and they discover that the medicine helps them escape negative feelings. The Recovery Village explains that, frequently beginning with abuse of prescription pain medication, an opioid addiction can spiral out of control until a person needs heroin or fentanyl on a daily basis just to experience the relief of agonizing and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. As the addict moves from prescription medicine to illicit substances like fentanyl, he or she is at increased risk of an overdose.

A Crisis of Meaning

Another trend that affects young people is a loss of purpose and meaning. They read the news and hear troubling stories of global warming and environmental uncertainty. They are told that financially, there is good chance that they will be worse off than their parents. They have grown in a society where religious, social and political institutions are justifiably treated with suspicion. Meanwhile, they read posts on social media that make it seem like everyone else is doing fine and living their best lives. Often, they feel alone, confused and left out. They are disconnected from the things that are supposed to give them meaning and purpose. Not only that, they are disconnected from themselves. It’s impossible to heal oneself if they don’t listen, or can’t hear themselves.

How to Fix It

Fixing this situation is no simple task. Elemental Life discusses how one place to start is by teaching the power and purpose of community. Gathering together to share a meal and conversation can be a powerful experience. Serving alongside other people; doing work such as feeding the hungry, can be a reminder that you are not alone. Telling the truth about how you feel to trusted friends can open up space for healing, reconciliation and renewed hope.

There needs to be increased learning on how to communicate with ourselves. For thousands of years people have known the power and importance of balancing our own bodies. Nowadays people are too focused on other things and neglect their own bodies. With Ayurveda teachings we are able to listen to our body and balance our mind, body, and souls.

Young people also need to be equipped with the knowledge that negative emotions are not unusual. It is normal to be sad, depressed or angry sometimes. It is by accepting such feelings that you can learn to cope with them and work through them. Once we understand that every part of our bodies and every emotion we have is important and essential, instead of trying to suppress these feelings, we can feel them openly. We are then able to learn how to handle our bodies in the best ways.

Hopefully, suicide and overdose rates will decline as society becomes more comfortable admitting that it has a problem. Work needs to be done in limiting the number of opioid prescriptions that are written. Work needs to be done in supporting young people in this difficult time. Everyone needs to learn how to listen and take care of their mind, bodies, and spirits. By giving support in the present, society can offer hope for the future.

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