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mental health mondays :: where even the depressed ones are happy

this past week saw the publication of the annual world happiness report, a look at nations around the world and how people in each of them feel about their lot in life. i started following this a few years ago, and this year it occurred to me that it would be fun to look at how the happy places compared to the crazy places. i mean, what if those countries aren't really all that happy, but just have an extremely high rate of psychotic/ delusional disorders?

so, i set to work putting together a comparison. as it happens, that's a bit trickier than it sounds, because information on any kind of disability is more difficult to come by than you might think. and no type of disability is more controversial than a mental illness, which means that there are even more complications around definitions, seeking treatment, prognoses, record-keeping... it's hard to tell how reliable anything you're looking at is. [not that there aren't some good sources.]

and what sources there are tell an interesting story; many countries that have high rates of depression, for instance, are "happy countries". the happy finns are more depressed than most europeans. the netherlands have one of the most depressed populations in the developed world, but also one of the happiest.  [i've singled out depression, because it's a disorder that fluctuates by country. rates of conditions like schizophrenia are pretty consistent.]

that is not to say that depressed people make for happy countries. the world's worst conflict zones are unhappy and disproportionately depressed. poland is unhappy, especially by european standards, but not depressed. the fact is that "happiness" is ephemeral. the report gives a definition that's measurable, but not all-encompassing. still, their careful methodology gives us something to work from. and it does give some interesting clues.

first and most obvious: money does, to some extent, buy happiness. even though the wealthiest country, the united states, languishes in the drop zone of the top twenty, there's no arguing that wealthier countries are happier. whiteness helps at least as much, possibly more.

but one of the things that jumps out is that the happiest countries all have robust public healthcare systems. the strength of the social safety net in general seems to correlate directly with happiness. that includes education. finland has less money than its neighbours, but that doesn't appear to matter. now, social support is taken as one of the sources of happiness for the purposes of the report, but what's obvious is that, in places where the government isn't taking on the burden of providing social support, the support isn't happening.

it's just a theory, but i think that one of the things that helps is the high ratio of doctors to patients in combination with the accessibility that a public system affords. those who seek treatment and are able to get it in a timely manner are happier, even as they deal with depression.

happy countries do a particularly good job of taking care of their children. mental illness among children is a sad reality, but it gets worse when kids are exposed to trauma or stress at a young age. like, for instance, the stress of not having enough to eat.

there are many, many things that can affect how happy we feel, but it's hard not to draw the conclusion that caring for each other, including vulnerable groups like children and the mentally ill, seems to make a difference. we can recover from mental illness, but in order to be healthy, we need to create systems that can help us be happy.

p.s. :: i know that finland did not have vikings. they are a totally different people. but the viking countries do make up the rest of the top four. so happy viking is still an appropriate image.

p.p.s. :: it's wedenesday, not monday. you're not crazy, at least not in that way. 


as long as you're here, why not read more?

a probably incomplete list of truly awesome place names in newfoundland

the very first part of my family [as far as i know] to arrive in canada washed up on the shores of newfoundland. both of my grandmothers' families have been in the province for a long time, as far back as the late seventeenth century. like many of the early settlers of the area, they started out as seasonal residents. fishermen from the southern part of england would travel across the atlantic every year because the fishing was just that damn good. eventually, of course, they decided that sailing across the atlantic ocean and back every year sucked and so they decided to set up permanent homes. at that point, they discovered that winter in newfoundland really sucked but having lived through the first one, they figured they'd dealt with the worst the place could offer and remained. [note :: not all of the people who settled there remained. even those who survived didn't all remain. i just happen to be descended from the stubborn ones who decided that they weren't going…

please stop telling me i'm pregnant

i took myself to the doctor this week in order to address a group of symptoms that have been dogging me. they have to do with my lady bits, which do have a tendency to turn grumpy or murderous with age, so i wanted to make sure there wasn't anything seriously wrong.

i went to my family doctor but, as i expected, he had to refer me for tests at a hospital. this requires him to give me an official referral but in order to do so, he needed me to confirm one thing:

"is there any chance that you're pregnant?"

no. there is no chance that i am pregnant. my husband has severe multiple sclerosis and is confined to bed and a wheelchair, so while intimacy is very much part of our lives, penetrative sex is an impossibility. there is absolutely no chance that i am pregnant.

he noted my response and the explanation i gave him and said he would make the referral. but first, they had to give me a pregnancy test.

say what?

it turns out that i could have said i'd been standing on …

making faces :: written in the stars, in lipstick [part two]

it's the middle of september already? i'm not prepared for that? i mean, i am prepared for it because the heat this summer has been murder on me and i've been begging for a reprieve for months but i'm still bowled over by the speed at which time passes. this year, i've been measuring time through the launches of bite beauty's astrology collection, which arrives like the full moon once a month. [the full moon arrives every four weeks, which is less than any month except february -ed.] earlier this year, i took a look at the first four launches of the collection and already it's time to catch up with four more.

the most important thing for you to know is that after several months of problems, bite and sephora appear to have sorted out their inventory planning. for the last several releases, information has been clear and reliable as to when and where each lipstick will be available [pre-orders taken for a couple of days on bite's own website and a general…