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CNBC reports today that nearly 1 in 5 Americans had mental illness in 2009. It is a suspect statistic as are all statistics and especially those statistics reported in the media without good links to their sources. There are so many things to challenge in this article it’s hard to know where to begin. Clearly this is a case where a definition of mental illness must come early in the discussion, especially when the claim is so very extreme. Extreme claims must have extreme evidence. And highly accurate statements must have highly accurate proofs. They give many statements in the article out to three significant figures that would be difficult to define and measure accurately at two significant figures or even one. Such as:

According to the survey, 6.1 million adults last year had a mental health need that went untreated, and 42.5 percent said it was because they could not afford it.

It found 14.8 million Americans had major depression last year, and 10 percent of the jobless did, compared with 7.5 of retired people or those not in the job force, 7.3 percent who worked part time and 5.4 percent who worked full time.

If these types of reports gave better limits as to their accuracy they wouldn’t be so annoying. Modern clocks may be able to measure to fourteen decimal points accuracy but that doesn’t mean human sanity can be. I have developed several scales which attempt to give specific measures for general subjects like Pain, Happiness, Trustworthiness, but even on a fifteen point scale there is a couple of point softness to these concepts. The details can be discussed and meaningful insights obtained about relatively amorphous subjects but the accuracy CNBC discuss in this article about mental illness is beyond absurd and writing about it in this way is a mental illness in itself.

Happiness has about the same level of definability as mental illness, and one might argue that they are the flip side of one another. The Happiness Scale is a long one which goes from “Relieved survival,” through various normally known states to “Seraphic enlightenment.” It is impossible to define any particular point at which someone would be classed as non-normal and having mental illness. Perhaps mental illness isn’t the flip side of happiness and perhaps someone can be totally insane and quite happy. However, if mental illness is seen in fouled-up relationships with people and the world in general, it is difficult to see how a mentally ill person could be happy. Another, similar scale I sketched out but didn’t develop into a complete chart is:

A Wellbeing Scale for measuring healthy behavior

Scaled~# – Explanatory sentence

WELL~0 Intentional suicidal acts intended to destroy one’s physical being.

WELL~1 Reveling in personal extreme risk and the enjoyment of violating other people’s natural rights.

WELL~2 Seeking out known hazards to health and wellbeing for rebellion and quick unearned pleasures.

WELL~3 Conforming to some legally accepted standards of behavior but which are known to be unhealthy.

WELL~4 Excessively doing something which is generally healthful but the excess creates problems.

WELL~5 Living with other people in the generally accepted ways of cleanliness and routine behavior.

WELL~6 Healthy living is achieved and being maintained by careful exclusion of non-appropriate things.

WELL~7 Superior life is attained by careful virtuous behavior aimed at developing a personal ideal.

WELL~8 Setting examples of life enhancing behavior which can be followed by others.

WELL~9 Constructing a local environment within which everyone can flourish.

WELL~10 Overseeing the public environment which helps everyone to be healthy and productive.

WELL~11 Dedicated efforts to find new and better ways for enhancing health and wellbeing of everything.

WELL~12 Enhancing the genetic life force in all creatures to maximize their potential for healthy individual life.

WELL~13 Creating new life forms which will better utilize the energy provided by natural energy sources.

WELL~14 Physical perfection is being manifest and is encoded for all time and all inhabitable places in reliably recreatable forms.

Using the chart above as a guide, a person of WELL~4 or less could be classed as mentally ill some of the time but okay most of the time. A WELL~0 would be classed as mentally ill all of the time. It would be absurd to place a couple of decimal places of accuracy on any analysis with this chart as a basis. The problem with the article from CNBC is that the methods they are reporting on are probably far less sophisticated than this simple chart and yet they have pretenses of extreme accuracy. So by my way of measuring truth versus lies on my Trustworthiness of Information Scale it would be a TST~4 Dubious Models at the best and possibly as low as a TST~2 Fabulous Impossibility. This is what is given to the public as useful information and news.

Bah-humbugs; what will we be getting for Thanksgiving or Christmas gifts this year?