Everyone has that one regret from their childhood â€“â€“ that one bit of anguished nostalgia youâ€™ll inevitably tell your therapist about while curled up, crying on their polyester couch.
For me, it was never being able to catch the ice cream truck.
I grew up in the small town of Palmer Lake, Colo., and the ice cream manâ€™s arrival was always elusive and unpredictable. He probably only drove through town about once a year, but each time, Iâ€™d barely hear the faint lilt of the truckâ€™s iconic melody before it drove off, leaving my innocence (and desire for a Ninja Turtles popsicle) crushed in the tire tracks.
It may seem overly dramatic, and well, it is. But as a kid, the ice cream truck was magical. A man whoâ€™s probably on work release, driving a rickety truck, selling overpriced Rocket Pops? I guess itâ€™s one of those things thatâ€™s great until you think about it too much â€“â€“ like sausage.
I was reminded of the touchy â€œice-cream-truck-inadequacyâ€ (as my future therapist will call it) after I saw the headline â€œNearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer from mental illnessâ€ plastered on various news websites this week.
Really? Even with all the gelato over there?
Before even reading further into the story, I doubted its legitimacy. Sure, Europeans can carry the stereotype of â€œbrooding,â€ but what about the other things theyâ€™re known for? Americansâ€™ fast-paced lifestyle is constantly being weighed against the relaxed, two-hour-lunch type of day in Europe. Itâ€™s been a popular generality that Americans are stressed, and Europeans are wine-sipping lovers.
So I read further, and according to the unnamed â€œlarge new studyâ€: in Europe, â€œ38 percent of the population suffers each year from a brain disorder such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia.â€
Immediately, I wondered how these statistics compared to those in the U.S. While weâ€™re constantly told that more than two-thirds of us are overweight, weâ€™re rarely riddled with statistics about our mental health.
Sure, we know weâ€™re fat, but are there some loose screws up there, too? I think we all know the answerâ€¦
But the same â€œlarge new studyâ€ that cited the European percentage said that no comparisons could be made to mental illness rates in other parts of the world, such as the U.S., because â€œdifferent studies use varying parameters to gauge mental illness.â€
Everything about it sounded ambiguous, and I was reminded of the paraphrased Mark Twain quote: â€œThere are lies, there are damned lies and then there are statistics.â€
Thatâ€™s not to say I think the studyâ€™s statistics were completely fabricated, because Iâ€™m sure there is some legitimacy behind them. And in no way am I taking the Scientology, crazy Tom Cruise approach, claiming like him, â€œThere is no such thing as a chemical imbalance in a body.â€
Oprahâ€™s couch would beg to differ, Tomâ€¦
Any type of mental illness is nothing to joke about, but I think spouting statistics from unnamed studies does nothing except spread negative perception of an entire continent of people. The ubiquity of the headline gave me one impression: Americans are bitter about being called fat; so weâ€™re glorifying the supposed vast mental instability of Europeans.
If the same study, by the same group, were conducted in the U.S., I think itâ€™s safe to say our percentage of â€œmentally illâ€ would be in the same league as Europe.
I mean, if I were my five-year-old self, Iâ€™d see it as this: Americans are the chubby kid in the neighborhood, the kid who somehow knew exactly what time the ice cream truck was coming and waited on the corner with his momâ€™s 20-dollar-bill. And Iâ€™d see Europeans as the kid whose parents locked him in his room while the ice cream truck drove by â€“â€“ but made sure to leave the window open so he could be taunted by the music.
Unfortunately, the human condition isnâ€™t that simple. As easy as it would be to place us all into ice cream truck metaphors, our minds are far more complex. Statistics canâ€™t always classify what a nation of people is truly experiencing.
I think most problems, like mental illness, can only truly be understood on a person-to-person basis, without the broad generalizations that accompany percentages.
But for the sake of my hypothetical future therapist, Iâ€™m still not giving up on that Ninja Turtles popsicle.
Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at email@example.com.