Americans are depressed. The solution? Throw money at it.

The United States is in a depression crisis, but we are too individualistic to find solutions.
Studies have shown that money can help mental health through pandemic welfare programs.

If we want a better future, we must push for an equal society.

P.E. Moskowitz, an author, manages Mental Hellth, a newsletter on capitalism and psychology. He is also a contributor to Insider's opinion writers.

This column is an opinion piece. These thoughts are solely the author's.

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It has been a terrible pandemic. Yet, in spite of the deaths of hundreds of thousands, something remarkable has occurred: People are happier now than ever before. A Gallup poll in July found that 59% of Americans feel they are thriving, which is a new record. Although stress levels were not as high as before the pandemic, it was found that they are still low. However, it is safe to assume that as the pandemic continues to worsen, stress levels will rise as the Delta variant grows.

There are many reasons why people feel so happy, such as the availability of vaccines, the reopening restaurants and bars, and the increased social interaction. There is another reason people may feel so happy these days, but it is less well-known and just as important. It is money.

The government launched a number of unprecedented programs during the pandemic that helped to stabilize or improve the lives of many Americans. The government gave millions to Americans, with no strings attached. Unemployment was increased to cover many more people over longer periods of time. Eviction moratoriums were also implemented to prevent Americans from experiencing the trauma of losing their homes.

These programs led to a significant structural shift in American inequality. According to some measures, poverty fell by almost 45% to its lowest point in American history. Many Americans earned more income than they did before the pandemic. It gave Americans more freedom and allowed some to leave their exploitative, dead-end jobs.

People's mental health improved directly due to the large-scale spending. A University of Michigan study found that Americans' mental well-being can directly be attributed to the passage of various economic relief bills. Before the passage of the COVID bill, 68.6% said that they felt anxious or on edge for several days. This number dropped to 53.9% after the passage of the second COVID bill. The rates of depression also fell dramatically.

The government has allowed most of these programs' to die, causing many to be evicted and in poverty, and also allowing Americans to lose their pandemic savings. We can expect a decrease in happiness and stress if the money spent during the pandemic caused an increase in Americans' well-being.

All of this points to an unsettling truth: Our mental health system in the United States is completely flawed. It is focused on the individual and not the systemic causes of mental distress and unhappiness. We must do something that our government is reluctant to do in order to improve our mental health.

Our economy is depressing

Depression is a common condition in America. Most people don't have many options. They just see their primary care doctor to get help. A majority of antidepressant prescriptions are written by primary care physicians. People with good insurance and can afford the out-of-pocket expenses can attend therapy. However, even the most comprehensive, expensive mental healthcare treatment won't fix a lot of the root causes of our economic problems.

Studies after studies have shown that people need money, job security and financial stability to be able to prosper. According to a 2017 study, money was the number two cause of stress in the United States. Researchers reviewed 115 studies about mental health and found that almost 80% of them showed a link between poverty and mental disorders. Two-fold increases in depression risk due to unemployment The opiate epidemic in America is not just due to exploitative pharmaceutical companies. Tens of millions of Americans live in communities that lack sufficient resources and jobs. Also, happiness is affected by the need to work long hours in order to make ends met.

Living in an unjust society can be detrimental to our mental health. Inequality increases stress, reduces participation in community life, and leads to increased levels of violence. It's not surprising that the United States has one of most unequal societies in the world.

Political leaders are beginning to recognize that there is a mental health crisis in the country. In March, the Biden administration announced it would spend $2.5 Billion to support community mental hospitals and addiction treatment and recovery programs. Although this money will be a huge help, it does not address the root causes of the nation's problems. The country's mental health won't improve no matter how many people get therapy or medication. Tens of millions of Americans are struggling to feed themselves, find work and maintain their financial stability.

A political solution is needed for mental health

However, politicians haven't acknowledged the root cause of this problem. This would require a fundamental restructuring of society. It would be impossible to have a society where work is guaranteed, there is no poverty, the inequality is reduced, and people are economically stable. However, socialism is still a dirty word in American politics. It would require a higher tax on the wealthy, a greater curbing of corporate greed, better childcare, and a higher minimum wages.

Although it might seem unrealistic to expect the United States will quickly transition to such an economy, it is clear that many Americans yearn for this type of change. Many Americans are ready to see a social restructuring. This was evident by Bernie Sanders' relative success in 2020's presidential primary. The popularity of the government’s pandemic welfare programs is a sign that Americans are becoming more comfortable with the idea of a strong government that supports its citizens.

Even if we don't have the resources to make a systemic change, there are small programs that have helped people feel better. Imagine what these programs could accomplish if they were made permanent or expanded.

Americans should not wait for a new crisis, such as a pandemic, to address their mental health. Our depression, our disorders, and our inability to cope are not about our brain chemistry or traumas. It is a political problem with a political solution.

We must advocate for a better future. Rent control, ending evictions, higher minimum wages are some of the solutions. To get there, however, we must first take the initial step of politicizing mental distress. This means getting it out of the therapists’ office and onto the streets.

This could include care collectives that help one another understand mental health within a political context. This could be community organizing, which helps people get out of their isolated lives such as the Black Panthers' breakfast program.

"The point must not be to destroy the conditions that make us sick, capitalist system that destroys lives and inequalities which kill. This is how we can create another world together," Mikkel Kruuse Frantzen, author of "Going Nowhere, Slow": The Politics and Aesthetics of Depression, wrote. "But, to achieve that, it is not necessary to compete among the sick. What is needed is alliances of care that make people feel less isolated and less morally accountable for their illnesses.

We must fight for a better future if we are to have any hope.