Vitality: A Psychiatrist's Answer to Life's Problems

By Richard Esser | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13.
THE KEY QUESTION OF PREVENTION

In 1962, five prominent American psychiatrists and social scientists at the Cornell University Medical College published the results of a remarkable research project, one that even today stands as a unique contribution to understanding the presence of psychiatric problems in society. They made a survey of a population segment in the center of mid-town New York City. They interviewed a large sample of adults from a population of 175,000 people. This is what they found: 81% had out-and-out, clear-cut, psychiatric symptoms, only 19% were symptom free. There was a sliding scale in the severity of those symptoms but a rough classification indicated that 23% of that total population had the severest of psychiatric symptoms, 30% moderately severe symptoms and 30% mild symptoms. What is of particular importance in that study is that only a minuscule number of those surveyed had any contact with psychiatry.2

Since then, subsequent surveys in different countries have also indicated the widespread presence of unequivocal severe psychiatric difficulties in populations — with only a minute number of those so troubled seeking help. Those results, as I see it, speak tellingly against the commonly-held assumption that only very few in the population have the severest of psychiatric difficulties and that those so troubled come to and are taken care of by psychiatry. They speak for a serious, widespread and unrecognized problem in

2 Rennie, T.A.C., L. Srole, S.T. Michael, T.S. Langner and M.K. Opler, Mental Health in the Metropolis: The Midtown Manhattan Study. New York: McGraw Hill, 1962.

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