An Overview of Mental Health in Waukesha, Wisconsin
Overshadowed by Chicago, which is only about 90 miles away, and nearby Milwaukee, Waukesha gets little recognition. However, it is a surprisingly sufficient little city of 72,016 residents, many of whom are ancestors of 19th century immigrants from Northern Europe. According to Sperling’s Best Places, the city has maintained many of its old-world traditions, one of which is brewing. However, despite the rise in popularity of breweries in the past couple of decades, Waukesha experienced a bit of economic decline in the early 2000s. While it has seen some revitalization in certain areas, particularly those near the lakefront, the shift has been toward the financial, retail and industrial industries. Statistics indicate that retail and manufacturing are characterized by higher-than-normal levels of absenteeism, worker dissatisfaction, employee substance abuse, high levels of conflict and reduced productivity. In short, they are characterized by the highest rates of mental health issues.
Factors That May Contribute to Waukesha’s Mental Health Environment
The fact that Waukesha’s economy is comprised of mostly financial, retail and manufacturing industries is only just a small part of the city’s problem. There are other factors that may contribute to the city’s state of mental health which, as the next section will explore, is not ideal. Below are just a few factors that may perpetuate mental health issues in the metropolis:
- Cancer Rates: Waukesha’s cancer rates are astoundingly high, at 482.8 diagnoses per 100,000 individuals, according to a recent study. The state’s cancer diagnosis rate is 459.0. Cancer can cause fear, anxiety and depression in diagnosed individuals and their family members.
- HIV Diagnosis Rate: Like the cancer rates, the HIV diagnosis rate is also very high. According to the report, 26.7 percent of adults living in Waukesha have been diagnosed with HIV. An HIV diagnosis can cause depression, anxiety, feelings of embarrassment and possibly thoughts of suicide.
- Obesity Rates: According to the same report, 28 percent of adults in Waukesha are obese. Obesity may cause feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, embarrassment, social anxiety and depression.
- Long Commute: A long commute causes sleep problems, poor concentration, headaches, back aches, high blood pressure, digestive problems and a whole other slew of physical symptoms. Those symptoms put increased stress on a person and his or her relationships. All these factors contribute to decreased mental health. 33 percent of working adults living in Waukesha cite having a “long commute,” which is 38 minutes or more.
- Excessive Drinking: 25 percent of adults living in Waukesha reported that they drink excessively. Excessive drinking not only causes mental health disorders such as hopelessness, depression, anger and impulsiveness, but it also perpetuates them.
- Opioid Use: Waukesha County hospitals saw 1,798 opioid related hospital discharges in 2016, more than the state’s number of opioid related discharges in the same year. Opioid use causes feelings of despair or guilt, depression, irritability and suicidal thoughts.
As you can see, there are several contributing factors to poor mental health in Waukesha. The section below explores how the above negatively impacts the region.
Mental Health Concerns in Waukesha and Wisconsin in General
A local healthcare company outlined Waukesha and surrounding area’s priority health concerns in a newsletter. According to the report, mental health issues such as depression, dementia, social isolation and binge drinking were all top concerns for those in the 65 and up age group. For all other age groups, the county prioritized excessive drinking, prescription drug misuse and heroin and opioid deaths. The healthcare provider also expressed major concern over the state’s rising suicide rate and rising rates of depression.
The suicide rates in the entire state of Wisconsin have increased by 40% between 2000 – 2019. While the rates are on par with the rest of the nation’s, they are still a cause for concern. As of 2016, the suicide rate in Wisconsin is higher than that of the nation’s, at 16.5 suicides per 100,000 individuals.