Occupy Wall Street: It’s a Mental Health Movement, Too

Occupy Wall Street, a movement which swept the nation and the world, began on September 17, 2011 in Manhattan. According to the mission of the movement, the organizers aimed at replicating the actions of fed up citizens in countries such as Egypt and Greece, and rallied thousands of Americans to appear in front of Wall Street to voice their distaste for the imbalance of wealth and power in our beloved country. Occupy members call themselves “The 99%,” referring to the one percent of Americans who hold a majority of the country’s wealth.

The movement has spread to include most major cities in the United States, including Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, and reaches countries beyond our borders. Outspoken celebrities and social activists such as Michael Moore and Cornel West made appearances and gave speeches. The internet has captured many of the voices at the protest, and their reasons for attending were varied. Some people stated that they wanted to be part of getting to the heart of what’s really wrong with the country. Others said the movement was necessary to regain our empowerment and abolish greed and corruption. Deborah Sweet, director of New York’s World Can’t Wait, an anti-war organization that was founded initially to obliterate any and all traces of the recent Bush Administration, stated what Occupy Wall Street meant to her when she said, “Uniting with people who refuse to accept the way the world is and have a vision of how it could be; it could be a world worth living in.”

Many people are gathering, clogging up the arteries of our country’s financial heart. But the police are there too. They show up every day in riot gear. They are spraying pepper and locking cuffs. They are threatening, bullying, and arresting the very same people who pay their salaries. The people who took an oath to serve and protect are serving warrants and protecting the interests of the one percent in the ivory towers. The cops, the men and women in blue, who represent a large part of the 99%, are caught in the cross-fire. As much as they may agree with the protesters, they also appreciate that they’re currently employed and may have a pension in their future.

Unemployment, vanishing pensions, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and plummeting home values have pushed many of the 99% over the edge. For people who have psychological issues, the added strain of economic uncertainty can be an intolerable stressor. Going to bed every night not knowing how to put food on the table or pay the mortgage at the end of the month can cause an immense amount of mental anguish. Millions of people are experiencing depression, anxiety, and other stress-related mental health issues. But sadly, many of the people who need help dealing with their current circumstances have lost the very job that offered them health insurance. No wonder they’re angry.

I am not old enough to remember the protests of the 1960s. I was not present for bra-burnings and didn’t march at Kent State. I do remember when the Million Man March was organized, but didn’t qualify to participate. This, however, is different. This is a state of affairs that is affecting nearly everyone in our country, either indirectly or directly. This is a situation that impacts how we live, day to day. This is a powerful and political climate that has slowly usurped the respect and dignity from its lifeblood. This is a violation of our unalienable rights, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

This is a demonstration of democracy. This is an exercise in independence. This is America.

© Copyright 2011 by Jen Wilson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Martin.T

    Martin.T

    October 3rd, 2011 at 10:15 PM

    I think the reason why the 1% does not think twice before making irresponsible decisions that will affect the 99% of us is simply because we are not proactive about what we stand for, about what we want. And a populace that does not stand up for its own rights is just too easy a target. These kind of demonstrations are necessary, to indicate that we’re not closing out eyes and that our lives cannot be toyed with!

  • Clarke

    Clarke

    October 4th, 2011 at 4:13 AM

    So I think that it is fine to exercise yyour right to protest. But what do they really think will come of this? Is it just that you want the rich to pay their higher share of taxes, or do you just want to scrap the capitalistic economy as a whole? I guess I am more than a little cynical because I am older, but this is just the way it is. Yeah it seems like the rich keep getting richer and the rest of us just plod along. But would we be handling things any more differently if we were the ones with the fatter bank accounts? I am not so sure about that- maybe I would want to protect mine too.

  • DaveGraham

    DaveGraham

    October 4th, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, All men are created equal? That’s a joke. Our forefathers must be turning in their graves to see the chasm that exists between the rich and the poor. This country lost its right to proclaim we’re all equal long ago and sabotages opportunities to redress that imbalance.

    A recent example: the politicians didn’t agree to unify, regardless of their political party, on finding a way to implement universal free healthcare for all Americans. They could have–they have the money and the best brains in the country at their disposal–but chose not to.

  • vicky beard

    vicky beard

    October 4th, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    Agreed, DaveGraham. It also makes a mockery of another famous phrase at The Statue of Liberty…

    “Give me your tired, your poor,

    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    If you have nothing, you’ll get nothing and nowhere. What happened to the American Dream? It turned into a nightmare.

  • Donna Ray Nelson

    Donna Ray Nelson

    October 4th, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    The only thing that surprises me about the Wall St protests is that they took so long to happen. The average person’s been paying through the nose to support these big corporations and organizations, with no say to speak of as thanks for their contributions, for too many years.

    Whenever any person of influence attempts to correct that inequality, the big businesses weasel their way around it. They do so either by finding loopholes to avoid taxes or charging the little guy more, who can afford it least, to address their losses.

  • E. R. Webster

    E. R. Webster

    October 4th, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    Did I want to bail out Wall St? Did they ask me? Let’s see, hmmm… do I want my taxes to go to bail out companies that hand out multi-millions in CEO bonuses, decimate share prices, and wreck mom and pop’s retirements by mismanaging funds supposedly handled by alleged experts? The answer is a big Hell no to all of that.

    And that’s why there was no public ballot on the bailout before it happened. It would never have passed if the man in the street had been asked.

  • Phillip Jeffries

    Phillip Jeffries

    October 4th, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    Clarke, I understand your cynicism, but this isn’t a matter of the poor wanting what the rich have – it’s a matter of pointing out that the rich have manipulated politics and legislation to inflate their bank accounts unfairly and unethically.

    And DaveGraham, that’s a nice sentiment about the Founding Fathers, but given that this country was built on the backs of slaves, a practice condoned by almost all of our Founding Fathers, citing their goals and intentions is a mixed bag, to say the least.

    The real surprise about the United States as it stands is that the rich have become so greedy that they’re chipping away at the NECESSITIES of the middle and lower classes now, and not just the luxuries that the middle classes have enjoyed. Someone still has to clean the toilets and cook the meals in the restaurants, and if you start making it impossible to live while doing the menial jobs you yourself don’t want to do, then you’re a complete fool to think that it won’t come back to bite you. For now, the biting is in the form of protests; later on, and we may see our own form of the French Revolution in action, and that would be a bloody, violent mess that I think it’s safe to say we’d all like to avoid.

  • lorraine

    lorraine

    October 4th, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    I know a lot of people who have lost their jobs and their very livelihood is under threat.add to that the fact of so many homes being foreclosed and soon we will realize the kind of desperate times were in!and it’s good to see that people gave finally woken up and are displaying their dissatisfaction!

  • John M.

    John M.

    October 5th, 2011 at 8:56 PM

    Occupy Wall Street is hardly sweeping anything. As a resident of NJ, I can tell you that the local media (usually liberal) has done nothing but pretty much ridicule these folks. In fact initial polling data by Rasmussen has demonstrated a split between favorable (33%) and favorable (27%) opinion while 40% of the country has not yet formed an opinion. This is likely due to the fact that polling occurred early on before the movement was able to get the sort of exposure that allows folks to come to an opinion. So although slightly favorable, polling is very early and hardly demonstrative of a “movement which has swept the nation”.
    The 99% number is also bogus, the number is closer to 42-43% and that is using a rather liberal definition of wealth that not everyone agrees with. The other statistic conveniently left out of this article is the tax burden. The top 10% already pay for about 70% of the entire tax burden. While those at the 50% cut off and below pay 3%. Over the last ten years the tax burden has outpaced income earned by those carrying the brunt of the burden.
    As for your conclusion of police opinion, can you please cite your source. What data do you have, that no other major polling company is in possession of, that allows you to sate this position as fact?
    The problem did not begin with big business, it started with government. It was government who mandated looser lending standards in the housing market during the 70’s to address inequities and pursued this aggressively by investigating banks and lending houses that were initially not willing to take the risk of putting out bad loans to fulfill politically motivated objectives. Over time banks mitigated risks by packaging loans. In theory it wasn’t a bad idea but it didn’t come out so hot in practice and internal oversight was poor as the risks were not fully recognized.
    The Bush administration was the first administration (truly the first) to question Fannie Mae and Mac and requested an overhaul which was shot down by congress. There is actually a pretty funny SNL skit that aired early on in the crisis showing Reid and Pelosi trying to blame Bush for the housing crisis while Frank kept pointing out that he actually tried to correct the problem while they stonewalled him. It went viral and then it was pulled by broadcasters because of pressure from “certain interests”. It was government who decided to fund the bail out, some banks were essentially forced to take the bail out money against their own will. This current administration was the most vocal and active when it came to rescuing industries where their base was most at risk (bailing out the auto industries due to pressure from unions) and spending trillions of dollars in a stimulus effort that repeated the mistakes of FDR’s failed New Deal. The Bush administration failed by beginning the precedent of printing more money and bailing out financial institutions they mistakenly viewed as indispensable. The federal reserve has compounded the problem by weakening the dollar to the point that hyper inflation is not only inevitable but already rolling-the world economy will eventually have a taste of what it was like back in the days of the Weimar Republic.
    Also, if you want to talk about how pensions are being mishandled-you should probably talk to government officials who typically borrow from the never ending pot to fund pork barrel projects in their backyards to prop up their support. Most evil businesses have 401k plans that their CEO’s are not allowed to touch for personal gain. You can also talk to Union bosses and Mafia heads who did quite a number on them earlier in our history.
    The Declaration of Independence is not a governing document, it did not form the nation, it provided a justification for the separation of independent states from British rule. It tied states to each other only in war against the crown. Sort of ironic that it is mentioned in this article as the primary reason for the revolution was that the colonies no longer wished to be taxed or regulated by what was a highly centralized government. Sound familiar?
    The constitution, which by the way is our governing document, promises no one a worry free life. It sets the rules of the game and does not limit what one should or should not earn. It does not promise free health care, public schools, social security checks, etc. Whether or not these are legitimate government concerns are a matter for debate but they are certainly not a constitutional right. It does not limit the amount of money one should make. It does not mandate that I spend the money I earn working 80 hours a week to someone else.
    There is nothing wrong with being rich. In fact I work very hard to become rich. I admire the rich, I admire people who create wealth and produce. I am thankful that there are people who are able and willing to pay me money for my services. I am thankful that there are people who are willing to risk it all on an idea so that we can have new advances in medicine, technology…anything. These folks don’t deserve our scorn, we should learn from their ingenuity and work ethic.

  • Up, Down and All Around... with Jen :-)

    Up, Down and All Around... with Jen :-)

    October 6th, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    @John – I appreciate your opinion. As far as the police stance, this is merely my opinion, gathered from personal friends, who are in law enforcement, who have told me that they would not want to be at Wall Street because they would be on the side of the protesters, but would have to arrest them anyhow. As for being rich, kudos to you. I want to be clear here, much clearer than the cause Occupy Wall Street is trying to forward. I do not think there is anything wrong with being rich. I do not think there is anything wrong with fed up people criticizing big business while they mourn Jobs’ death on their I-Pads. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with helping the disadvantaged with food stamps and Medicaid. I do, however, think that our country is in a fast downward spiral, being fueled by the left, right, liberals, conservatives, rich and poor. And I believe that the state of our union, the division that is so evident among our citizens, is anything but good for the mental, physical and fiscal health of our country. If you have any suggestions, please share them with our governing body. Because from where I stand, they need all the help they can get.

  • Ryan Holloway

    Ryan Holloway

    October 6th, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    @E.R. Webster: Count me in with the man in the street!! I would never have supported that. I’d rather have seen that money go to our schools and hospitals.

    Funny how the funding can be found when it’s their big business butts on the line yet we can hardly get the potholes fixed in our roads or have enough cops in deprived neighborhoods to keep the poorest of the poor safe. Too big to fail? Only because they are expecting you and I to pay for their failings, both literally and figuratively.

  • John M.

    John M.

    October 6th, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    What exactly does “big business” need to be criticized for? When CEO’s break the law that seek to regulate businesses out of their last nickel (laws our elected official apparently don’t have to follow when it comes to tax payer money), they are forced to march in front of a congressional committee. If a work environment is undesirable then get another job or take the same risks as the founders of the company did when they started their business and run things differently. Before you invest in something know what you’re investing in thoroughly.

    In normal world, businesses that employ bad business practice go out of business. Investors who put their money in them know better for the next time. Are there winners and losers? Sure there are, but no society has ever eradicated that. Those who have tried to do so through statist policies end up in the grave. Why do you think China is now booming after years and years of poverty? It’s certainly not because they enacted more of the same Marxist dribble that almost drove them into the ground.

    Lack of capital? My dad and his brothers came to this country with nothing-0- and lived in a slum with five other siblings (sharing a bathroom). He didn’t spend his money on latte’s, he saved every nickel and ate a lot of crap having to earn his coin. All of them are multi-millionares. It took them 15 years to amass a fortune in one of the worst economic periods of this country’s history.

    Ill be clear, what is killing this country is the left (and I put the majority of both parties in that bracket)and their assumption that we cannot think, provide or act in our best interest. That somehow we need their protection. They take our money and give it back to us in the form of substandard schools, retirement benefits and health care and tell us that we are somehow indebted to them. We used to call this sort of thing slavery.

    They set minimum wage laws that do absolutely nothing but create inflationary problems and create other laws that force employees to join unions that are corrupt and irresponsible.

    When the inevitable occurs and everything starts falling apart they blame “big business”. They want to loot and cannibalize the only hope we have of getting our country back on track and incite others to do the same.

    Give us back what we pay in taxes and we’ll provide for our families in all of those areas and do it better. Schools, for example, will only have one principal to abide by and that is to educate effectively at the lowest possible cost.

    The reason why division is killing us is because the constitutional protections offered to individuals and states in being able to determine their own destiny have been trampled on so those living in Texas and California have to abide by laws they find repugnant. The Constitution explicitly rejects this sort of federalism for good reason-it is exactly the sort of thing we felt the need to revolt against in claiming our independence.

  • Y.T.

    Y.T.

    October 6th, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    @Donna Ray Nelson : “And whenever anyone attempts to correct that inequality, they weasel their way around it, finding loopholes to avoid taxes or charging the little guy more, who can afford it least, to address their losses.”

    Like Bank of America is now doing you mean, Donna Ray? They are introducing $5 a month charge for being able to use their debit card. That’s obviously to help recoup what they lost during the recent financial overhaul on credit card and banking fees which has prevented many of the banks to continue to make a killing from us.

  • Phillip Jeffries

    Phillip Jeffries

    October 8th, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    John M., you can’t be serious. “What exactly does “big business” need to be criticized for? When CEO’s break the law that seek to regulate businesses out of their last nickel…”

    Your second sentiment, which makes it sound like big businesses are struggling to make a profit, is as ridiculous as it is insulting to any moderately well-informed American. I’ll give you benefit that perhaps you were a little verklempt when you were typing and got carried away.

    But to your first question, Big Business can be criticized for many things, perhaps most notably how they funnel money to lobbies (and indirectly into the pockets of unscrupulous lawmakers) to get laws changed which benefit them and their shareholders, to the detriment of our society.

    Take one example, the ubiquitous Blah-Mart (name changed to protect the guilty). That company used to be run by a man who loved his country, and carried exclusively (or nearly so) American-made goods. Now that he has passed on, his greedy family members have their grubby hands on his company, and times have changed. Instead of buying American, the company buys much more cheaply made items from Asia or elsewhere, and forces American ones to match that cheap price. When they can’t, then the American factories and businesses which once made those items go out of business. Then Blah-mart opens a new supersized-store in their town, and all the former factory workers who used to get $15 an hour are now offered $7 an hour jobs, and Blah-mart runs commercials in their region with new employees saying how much of a godsend Blah-mart has been by opening a new store so they might have jobs.

    It’s disgusting, just as it is with every company who takes jobs offshore, paying what amounts to slave wages and leaving Americans without jobs. It’s unethical, it should be illegal, and it might even warrant being called ‘treason’.

  • John M.

    John M.

    October 10th, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Phillip-My words were written with their exact meaning in mind. Let’s talk about the healthcare fiasco that recently passed as a prime example. Greedy Insurance companies were used as the justification for this coming nightmare (healthcare costs are already rising as a result and small businesses are dropping plans like they’re on fire). The greedy evil insurance company netted an average profit of 2%-thats right 2%. The main reason why healthcare costs are skyrocketing? Its not big business – its’ trial lawyers, over regulated health plans and people being forced to purchase coverage they don’t need because government deems it a right. Despite these facts, did that law try to mitigate tort? Nope. Why? Guess who the biggest donor to the Democratic party is. That’s right -trial lawyers. And what do they use to milk doctors and pharmcos? The courts.

    As for business using money to lobby. Funny you don’t mention how this cuts both ways. Unions do the same thing. The thing I find funny about that is that businesses use the money they earn, Unions and other public interest entities use the money they many times received through force of fiat. If a business owner wanted to use all his money to buy gummy bears that’s his/her right-it’s THEIR MONEY. Get the concept? Would you like me to go over your house and tell you how I think you should spend your money?
    As for Walmart- you don’t like it? Then don’t shop or work there. Why are you angry that a business is willing to hire someone to do the same job at a lower cost when 99% of the world (except government of course) operates under that very same principle? What if you were required to purchase your items or buy services based not on your self interest but that of another? How would that work for you? Also funny, is that without Walmart many of the folks in Asia would not have jobs. If the people in Asia feel it in their best interest to take on work at the price Walmart is willing to pay, more power to them. If Americans want the job then they’ll have to do the same.
    Given a choice between working at Walmart and taking a handout Ill gladly put on the blue vest. Whatever Walmart pays is more acceptable to me than taking something that does not belong to me, something I took from another to support my own.
    Im glad you brought wages up as global free trade (an effort to bring to the masses the only thing that’s ever lifted anyone out of poverty-capitalism) exposes the insanity of government attempts to regulate wages and labor. When governments who attempt to manipulate these attempt to compete against governments who don’t guess who wins? Granted Asia is in for a rude awakening because they’ve also played some nasty games and the cracks in those economies are starting to show. Overtime labor markets will stabilize as the quality of living in poorer countries will improve to a point that wages will equal out-but that will take time.

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