Mental Illness: Genetic or Environmental?

~another essay that I wrote for my literature class~

An individual’s nation of residence can shape their mentality for the rest of their lives; not only does it affect how one sees the world, but it also contributes to their happiness, goals, and overall mental health. A culture’s influence on a population is evident in the more exuberant Latin American and European countries, places in which do not stress economic domination and political prowess. In comparison, the United States is a breeding ground for anxiety and depression–one of the negative aspects of living in a world superpower. Our culture is what shapes our mental health and sanity. It teaches us how far we must push ourselves and how to cope (or fail to, in our case) with these psychological problems. Some may argue that this is primarily a hereditary burden. Though mental illnesses can be inherited through genetics, a person’s environment perpetuates a dwindling condition to a greater extent.     

This proposed claim, however, must first compare to an opposing conclusion: mental illness is primarily genetic. Indeed, some mental illnesses are hereditary, but the extent of their effects on one’s posterity is hardly known, much less explained in great detail (“Does Mental Illness Run In Families?”). For this lack of understanding, there is reason to believe that mental illness is a condition not born, but made. Another opposing view is the opinion that society has no impact over one’s health. After all, is it not fact that holding a job and working hard under intense pressures makes a human feel more productive and subsequently happier? There is indisputable evidence that being unemployed creates a hollow, unfulfilled individual, yet that is not to say that they will find themselves any happier with employment. Some of the most prosperous, economically sound nations, which will be addressed later on, are of the most depressed in the world. Therefore, this stance is one that cannot be completely satisfied with evidence, unlike the initial position of mental illness being environmental.

Environmental factors are the primary aspects that push individuals into ill states of mind. As previously mentioned, booming nations like China, India, and the United States all have the highest rates of substance abuse and depression around the globe. According to the World Health Organization, one in five adults in these countries experience some form of mental illness every year, with little over 40% receiving treatment for it (“10 Most Depressed Countries,” U.S. News). This failure to receive help could be a matter of money, but it is justifiable to assume that this was a result of stigma and societal pressures. In nations such as the United States and China, the weight put on the shoulders of the youth most often leads to failure and disappointment. The usage of drugs and alcohol increase to cope with these feelings, furthering individuals into deeper states of anxiety and depression. In addition to the stigma already surrounding mental health treatment, the number of ill individuals has no choice but to rise.   

Just as a nation with great expectations and mountains for expectations breeds suffering, a country that is more relaxed and carefree will not display such mental disorders. For example, a few of the happiest nations on the planet are Finland, Denmark, and New Zealand (“This is the world’s happiest country in 2019,” CNN travel). There is no gene responsible for their happiness (as immigrants are happiest in these places as well), for it is all in their way of life that provides a positive atmosphere. From their trust in the government, to the freedoms they possess, to the aid they receive, the nations not in the top (or bottom) percentage of wealth may have a higher average of happy people.

Educational systems and social media also have a large role in undermining mental health, targeting adolescents. One in five children show signs of a mental illness, and only 20% are being treated. The first reason for this is that families and teachers do not know the signs of a child struggling, much less have time to deal with it. Secondly, there aren’t enough counselors, social workers, and special education teachers to provide their services to children in need (“The Mental Health Crises in our Schools,” nprED).

This high number of mentally ill youths will only increase due to social media. Digital validation– whether it be through likes, followers, or general praise–is sought heavily in the realms of Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube. The broadcasting of all the most glamorous, beautiful parts of life and the “filter[ing of] negative characteristics” sends the audience of such posts into feelings of inadequacy and insecurity (“Social Media and Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Mental Health” National Center for Health Research). These feelings combined with the dangers of spending extended amounts of time alone online increase the risk of young people to develop mental problems and suicidal thoughts.

The toxic values Americans hold dear are evident in our lifestyle. Our longer than average work hours, obsession with money, lack of government support, overworking of children, and lack of social connectivity make it no surprise that we are among the saddest in the world. The lifestyle a nation exhibits can influence one’s mental state both positively or negatively. If Americans desire to decrease their mentally ill, our way of life must have to change. The way treatment is viewed must have to change. A society of individuals who not only feel comfortable receiving help but also want to continue their life must be created all around the globe. 




thanks for reading my take on mental illness! do you agree? is mental health mostly genetic or a product of our environment?

also, if you would like to check out my dark fantasy novel Accursed Red, click here!



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Harsh says:

    I think in this time and age mental illness is a product of environment. The expectations from the society, the pressure of satisfying the needs of loved ones,money – which has gained a lot more importance now in people’s lives, and the fear of being inferior to others and not getting respected, takes a toll on the person over time which is then clearly seen later on.


    1. sammicakes says:

      I completely agree, and the current situation of rising work hours and less money being paid to workers than they are owed just aggravate the situation :(( it’s like a big game on who can be the richest, and the gamble is your own happiness!


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