The prevalence of mental illness is almost 20% in the US. Imagine if 20% of the population developed respiratory illness. We would be calling for immediate investigation into what was harming people and for quick changes to stop it. Why aren’t we doing that for those who suffer from mental illness? Instead, we tell them to snap out of it, figure out what they are doing and thinking wrong.

As a clinical psychologist, I am faced with the damage that this modern life of ours does to us. I see people who have all the building blocks of a good life, but who struggle to even make it through the day. As a college lecturer, I meet wonderful, young people who keep having to place achievement before their physical, emotional and social needs. And who blame themselves for the negative consequences. I work with people one on one, but I keep feeling I am not doing enough, that I need to get out of the therapy room and call for changes that will stop the stream of suffering people.

It is time we look beyond the individual and face the ways our societies fail to be human-friendly, how our everyday lives make it very hard to thrive both physically and mentally, how we become so focused on achievements and financial security that we accept years of anguish, hoping that just around the corner lies the happiness that we are promised if we just achieve enough. It’s time we question not just the members of society, but the whole structure. We can do better. Together.

Kamilla Lange is a clinical psychologist, a mindfulness instructor, and an external lecturer for US college students. She is also the author of a book on mindful eating called Vind Kampen mod Vægten. She is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Originally published at