Predictions for 2010: Mental Health

By Gina Simmons, Ph.D.

At the start of a new year, news outlets, psychics and financial analysts give their predictions for the new year. Psychic Sylvia Browne predicts 2010 will bring an increase in childhood skin cancer and a cure for the common cold. CNN predicts web trends like more television starts coming to us via computer and a surge of social gaming and virtual currencies. Nouriel Roubini predicts the crash of the “gold bubble” and J.P. Morgan expects emerging markets to rise 30%. If you believe sanity is worth pursuing I hope these mental health predictions for 2010 prove helpful:

  • Starting January 1, 2010, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act mandates insurance coverage for mental health be comparable to general health coverage. Companies with more than 50 employees must provide insurance reimbursements, lifetime caps and co-payment benefits for mental health, comparable to the coverage for medical illness. Many employees, burdened from working long hours doing the work of their laid-off former colleagues, will be able to get the help they need.
  • More children age 8 to 17 will report symptoms of stress including headaches, sleep disorders and upset stomachs. Parents worried about foreclosures, unemployment and other economic woes, will underestimate how much stress their children feel (Monitor on Psychology, January 2010). Many will wait too long to get treatment for their children because of a lack of awareness and resources for mental health treatment.
  • More than a million people will join the Charter for Compassion, taking action to build a more peaceful world.
  • Adult and child obesity will continue to expand with our waistlines. Increased consumption of cheap, calorie- dense foods full of fat, salt and sugar will contribute to a heavier, though malnourished population. We will continue to see a boost in low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
  • Leaders like Barack and Michelle Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger will promote healthy lifestyle choices to improve public health. Healthy People 2010 will have some success providing health education, legislation and community support to improve the health of our nation.
  • Hate group membership will continue to rise (54% increase in hate groups since 2000, Intelligence Report, spring, 2009). Fueled by hostile radio, web and television programs, extremism will grow. Violent standoffs with the government, lone-nut shootings and home-grown terrorism predictably will follow.
  • The number of community gardens will grow at a faster pace as people search for healthy, cheaper ways to eat. This will improve the mental health of neighborhoods across America by encouraging self-reliance, good nutrition and social interaction.
  • Church membership will grow as more families seek spiritual meaning during troubled times. Those who belong to religious organizations will weather these tough times better.  Unfortunately fringe cult movements will grow as well. Cult members tend to engage in extreme behavior, threatening mental stability.
  • Creativity and innovation will explode, particularly in the following areas: web-based connectivity, blogging and virtual worlds, street theater, satire and comedy, international musical mergers and independent films. Creativity enhances well-being, self-sufficiency and adaptability.

To ensure good mental health in 2010:

  • Practice acts of love and kindness toward the people in your life. Love costs nothing and makes us feel filthy rich.
  • Do physical activity every day. Hoe the community garden, walk your neighbor’s dog, train for a 10K run.
  • Turn off the television, radio, computer or other electronic device and get into nature. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”
  • Play. Throw around a football or frisbee, play checkers with a child, wrestle a puppy, or tumble with a toddler. Playing at any age reduces stress, increases joy and fosters resilience.

Remember, no matter how tough things seem to be right now, it can always get better. If you and your family still feel pretty happy and secure, share that good positive energy with others. You can help someone turn a downward spiral into an upward spiral of hope and growth.