Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Depressed in Utah

A recent men's magazine reported on the 12 happiest, and 12 most depressed, cities in America. Salt Lake City came in as the 11th most depressed in the nation, just after New York City.

The data was gathered by comparing the number of anti-depressants prescribed, and various surveys, across America. What's disturbing is that Utah has a rather high rate for rape, unwed mothers, and suicide as well. Why are we so screwed up?

One psychologist I heard on the radio mentioned that the rates could reflect the local attitudes towards depression. It could be that it is more accepted as a legitimate problem and so more people are reporting it, and being treated for it, that in other areas. That's great, but it doesn't explain the high suicide rate.

Other people, some of them social workers, blame it on the dominant religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They say that if the "Mormons" would just lighten up, and start behaving the way the rest of the world does, they'd be better off.

My initial response, as one of those "Mormons," is to firmly pick up my "siege mentality" and fight against the notion. To me it's not so much our strict moral standings in conflict with the "nature of man," but the world fighting against our moral standings to such a degree that we feel hurt by the fight itself. In other words, it's NOT living our beliefs that may be contributing.

On the other hand, I think there may deeper societal issues that are related to what many of these folks have to say. They may have a point, and it's not just on top of their heads.

Utah is notorious for its high work ethic, large families, and low pay rates. The cost of living, especially housing, is quite high when compared with people's salaries. There is great pressure on men to take care of their families, to be supermen, and pressure on women to be the perfect mothers and domestic goddesses. Because of economic factors, many families struggle with the idea that the mother's place is in the home, that she shouldn't pursue a full time career as long as there are children in the house. Economic realities don't always make that viable. So parents, and mothers in particular, are facing added societal stresses. The conflict seems to be between the depressed (and depressing) economy requiring some families to have a second income, vs. staying home to provide the best care for the children.

That doesn't solve the problem of the high rates of rape and teen pregnancy, but it certainly a social factor that may just be contributing to our collective depression.

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