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OPinion: Legislators examine the root causes of nation’s ills

About 52.9 million Americans - that’s one in five adults - experience mental illness each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In 2020, one in 10 young adults, between the ages of 18 and 25 were found to experience serious mental illness, which is defined as a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. The stresses brought on by the COVID pandemic are not factored into those numbers.

Today’s economic pressures are making things much worse. According to the American Psychological Association’s latest Stress in America survey, Americans are more stressed about money than they’ve ever been.

Vaile Wright, senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association, reports that 87% of Americans said that inflation and the rising costs of everyday goods is what’s driving their stress. And according to Bankrate’s 2022 Money and Mental Health Report, more than 40 percent of U.S. adults say money is negatively impacting their mental health.

Investment portfolios of seniors, who have spent a lifetime building up their retirement nest egg, are being pounded. And according to the 2021 Natixis Global Retirement Climate, a growing number lack hope they will ever have enough money to retire, with roughly 40 percent saying their ability to be financially secure in retirement is “going to take a miracle.”

Mark Hamrick, Washington bureau chief at Bankrate, explains that when the economy is working for them, there’s a greater likelihood that people will have hope that they can accomplish their basic personal financial objectives.

What’s missing under the current Biden administration is that people lack a sense of hope. Each day, more citizens are tiring of the president’s endless string of excuses and lack of culpability, whether it be the weak market, surging fuel prices, the disappearance of baby formula in many areas, the open border or the surge in crime, especially in larger cities.

Several legislators in the Northeast, meanwhile, have been providing support to constituents facing mental health challenges in their districts.

Dennis Hutchison, Somerset County Farm Bureau, notes that farmers have historically been hesitant to admit when they’re stressed out or depressed. In a recent survey, farmers described themselves as self-sufficient, strong and stubborn and that they felt a huge sense of responsibility over managing farms that, in some cases, have been handed down over centuries.

They admit, however, having a difficult time expressing their feelings or asking for help.

State Sen. Elder Vogel, the fourth generation in his family to run a dairy farm in Beaver County, helped create a new AgriStress Helpline for Pennsylvania farmers which can offer a variety of resources in dealing with stress-related challenges. The service, which is free, came out of a February 2020 mental health roundtable and is grant funded.

Rep. Claudia Tenney, a U.S. congresswoman whose district covers a large part of central New York, recently introduced legislation to improve programs providing care and treatment for mental health, suicide prevention, substance abuse, and related issues.

In response to recent mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Tenney said that Democrats are missing the mark on identifying the root causes, which she feels are a tragic symptom of a far more systemic deterioration of our society and institutions.

While mental health problems in the country have been exacerbated by the internet and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, the liberal policies in Democratically run cities can’t be ignored when discussing the crime surge. Tenney points to examples like the triple murder in 2015 committed by Paul Bumbolo, who was held for a mental health evaluation after killing the family dog but released several hours later.

Tenney’s analysis of the ills plaguing the nation makes sense, “from the breakdown in our society and the fraying of the very social networks that once bound us together to criminal justice reforms that have demonized police while celebrating criminals, our country needs a serious course correction.”

By Jim Zbick | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.