By Scott Kieth
Nihilism Run Amuck
USA Today 11.07.13 –– “High mental health costs for young adults threaten to undermine a key assumption of the Affordable Care Act: that insuring more people would lower the costs because they are healthier and require less expensive care.” This was the assumption of the architects of what is commonly known as Obama Care until it was discovered that up to 18%-21% of people between the age of 18-35 had been diagnosed with a serious mental condition. What are we to think of this? No matter what your political perspective on Obama Care happens to be, this statistic ought to strike some measure of concern in you. In other words, approximately one in five people under the age of 35 are struggling with a mental illness of one type or another (depression, eating disorder, anxiety disorder, bi-polar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and various social phobias). In many ways this is truly a lost and hurting generation.
I have thought for some time that what is happening is a slouching toward nihilism. Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing of value can be known, believed, or communicated. When people are encouraged to believe that nothing has value, or that these values are baseless, they will find themselves at a crux point if this becomes untrue in their life. Let me give an example. Suppose that for all of your life you were encouraged to believe through social cues, media, and general interactions within society, that sexual relations had no “value” other than the feelings in the moment of the act. Suppose now that you, like every character you have ever watched on TV, put this into practice by jumping from sexual partner to sexual partner within your group of friends (this is a not so veiled reference to the TV show Friends and I’m sure various other TV shows of which I am gratefully unaware). Further, you, because of the aforementioned societal norms, believe that this should happen without any moral, psychological, or value based encumbrances. Yet it doesn’t feel valueless as you see your ex-lover on the couch in a post-coital embrace with your best friend. It feels awful, meaningful, and replete with negative value. How are you to respond? To respond negatively would seem to fly in the face of all that you have been taught about the way society operates; as a valueless entity that does not judge lest it be judged.
I do not give the examples above in an attempt to promote some sort of puritanical false sexual pietism (I truly hate that crap). Rather, here is the crux… To assign value to this would be to admit that one ought not believe that these things of real and substantial value hold none. Or, one could hold to their nihilistic world view and attempt to bury the emotions that are a natural part of who we are as those created in the image of God. It is not my place to argue a case against all of these mental illnesses being the result of chemical imbalances, though it seems like a rather large percentage of the population for that to be the case. What I am asking is for us to consider the possibility that these individuals are more than mentally ill. Perhaps, instead, they are quite logically lost in a world which assigns no value to things which they actually feel have great value. In this case, reactions of depression, anxiety, OCD, social anxiety, and even suicidal ideations (a reality which also is exhibited in a higher than normal rate in young adults) seem sad, but oddly appropriate. These reactions may be a quite natural result of an internal undermining of a world view based on experience that tells them something is amiss with the meaninglessness they thought they believed.
Next week… Part Two: A Mental Health Epidemic –– Narcissistic Hedonism Run Amuck. Is your child being raised to believe that they are the center of the universe too? By the way, after next week I will be writing something on puppies or Disneyland, these blogs are starting to depress me.