My Take on Why Mental Health Awareness Month is Important

In my last piece, I got real with you about how I was feeling mentally. I was in crisis and had been for several weeks. The response I received was very interesting. Being a nerd, I found the lack of response, how people chose to ignore what I had said from the heart as fascinating.

I’m Not Upset

Don’t worry, I’m not upset. In fact, for the first time for over a month, I am feeling myself again. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m grateful that for the moment the anxiety has subsided.

As to the response to my baring my soul, I understand. I too sometimes look away from another person’s pain. It isn’t because I don’t care, but rather it is fear that I do not know what to do or say. I feel deeply insecure when offering my shoulder to cry on, although I do it anyway sometimes. It feels dangerous.

It would seem the piece where I bared my soul and my inner world to you came at a prestigious time. May is mental health awareness month. Making each other, our nation and the world aware of the fact that a large percentage of us live with a mental health condition is vital.

I may also add, every human being who ever lived, is living now, or ever will live in the future will experience some type of mental health crisis in their lifetime.

Traumatic events, it seems, is a part of life that none of us escapes.

The Shocking Statistics of Mental Health in the United States

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One may ask, “why are we celebrating mental health problems?” and the answer to that question is this. We who live with a mental health condition are not celebrating having them, we are trying desperately to wipe away the long-held discriminations against us.

You see, people like me, who have a serious mental health issue, are more common than one might think. The info-graphs I gleaned from the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), tells the story well.

The Prevalence of Mental Illness in the U.S.

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.2
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.3
  • 1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.4
  • 6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.5
  • 9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.6
  • 1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific phobias.7
  • Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.8

The Social Statistics

  • mental health services in the previous year.12
  • An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.9
  • Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.10
  • 70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.11
  • Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.8
  • Just over half (50.6%) of children with a mental health condition aged 8-15 received African Americans and Hispanic Americans each use mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.13
  • Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.14

The Consequences of Lack of Treatment

  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.15
  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.16
  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.17Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.18
  • Over one-third (37%) of students with a mental health condition age 14­–21 and older who are served by special education drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.19
  • Suicide is the 10thleading cause of death in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10–34.20
  • More than 90% of people who die by suicide show symptoms of a mental health condition.21
  • Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.22
  • There are 329 million people living in the United States right now with 65 million currently diagnosed with a mental health condition. That figure means that 20% of adults living in the United States has a mental health disorder.

To be clear, the above statistic only includes the people we know about who have sought help and it does not include the many other types of mental health disorders or those who choose to remain silent about their struggling!

Added to the tragedy of mental health in the United States is the fact that half of all the mental illnesses here began before the age of 14; and ¾ before the age of 24.

(I’ve listed the citations at the bottom of this post.)

The Global Prevalence of Mental Health Issues 

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The statistics for the globe showing the prevalence of mental health disorders isn’t much better. With 13% of the world’s population having some type of mental health disorder.

There are approximately 7.7 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “B”) people on this planet as of the last count. That means that approximately 1 billion of us live with a mental health issue. However, that figure only reflects those who we KNOW live afflicted with a problem. It does not include people living in cultures that deny mental health issues exist or is taboo.

Clearly, mental health is not an American invention but is a vital part of how humans interact and most likely one of the major causes of conflict in the world.

Suppose, just dream with me here, just suppose all the people in the world received the health care they need and deserve. Suppose they felt safe enough and had no fear of receiving that care. What do you think our world would be like then?

Globally, we spend far too little money on research into safe, more effective, and low-cost treatment.

We are A World In Crisis

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The world is living in an increasing crisis. There are many factors at play, including the use of social media, political tensions, and a growing number of adults who experienced childhood trauma.

Social media was supposed to bring people together but in practice, it has driven us farther apart. Couples used to sit while holding hands on the couch and watch movies together or have sex before going to bed at night. Now each of the pair sits or lie staring at a computer or phone screen ignoring the other. Children are dying by suicide in record numbers due to cyberbullying, and the art of having a good conversation in person or on the telephone is quickly dying.

The political tensions in the United States and around the world are enormous. With my country experiencing our worst crisis since Watergate (and maybe worse) and other countries close to a revolution, we live in an increasingly dangerous world. Some can smell the stench of war in the air and I find that horribly frightening because the days of conventional warfare ended with the explosion of the first nuclear weapon over Japan.

Because our society has chosen to ignore child abuse and neglect, the number of traumatized adults in need of help is soaring. It began in the years following world war II, when men returned home living with undiagnosed PTSD and finding they could not cope at home. The instability in the homes of the 1960s and 1970s caused an increasing number of children raising children as teenagers turned to sex to ease the stress they were under. Because they did not receive the tools necessary to raise their children well, these teen girls often raised their children alone causing an increase in the number of child abuse cases.

Their children, now traumatized, had children of their own and passed the legacy of destroying young lives on to this day. Thus, the remnants of World War II are still among us, echoed in the suffering of the children of our communities and world.

Why Recognize Mental Health for Only a Month?

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Obviously, mental health issues do not last for only one month per year, so why is it only one month we recognize it? Why is the world so frightened of seeing mental health issues as a health crisis? Why when raising the topic of mental health, do people of good conscious hide their heads in the sand?

It has been my observation that people tend to shy away from and fear something they see in themselves. To speak of depression or, god forbid, schizophrenia, makes people look hard at themselves and wonder about their own thoughts and actions.

By recognizing the many different types of mental health issues that humanity suffers, people who belittle or discriminate against those who live with them feel terrified on the inside that they may be next.

It’s like our denial of death. We all will die, that is an undeniable fact. However, how many people have you heard speak about how they were treated when someone they loved became terminal with a disease.

I’ve heard stories of how the family was shunned by people who feared they did not know what to say or do. Then there were the people who offered help but did not follow through.

I’ve also heard of people who stepped up to the plate during the crisis but soon disappeared after the funeral was over.

Like avoiding a conversation about death, those who deny that they too could fall prey to a traumatic event and form a mental health issue terrifies people. To avoid fear, they hide their eyes in their hands like a small child.

If they don’t see it, they reason, then it doesn’t exist.

It’s time to wake up to the understanding that mental illness is not going away and that, yes, you or someone you love could form one.

That is why we bring before the public all over the world the existence of mental health issues and how it affects all of us. Why one month? Because humans are funny creatures, we adapt and ignore a message pressed on us too often. By repeatedly pushing mental health awareness, people would acclimate to it and ignore our message even more than they already do.

There is Hope on the Horizon

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Every year I read new research finding new and better ways to treat mental health problems. We are using AI like never before to probe the human brain to understand what goes wrong.

I firmly believe that if the world does not destroy itself, within the next two decades we could see cures for many of the mental issues that are so destructive to lives today.

In the meantime, the most important thing you and I can do is to stick together. As a group, we are more resilient and more likely to be heard than apart. We need to reach out to each other constantly to evaluate how to make our voice louder so that the needed research gets funded. We need to continue to reach out to each other offering a shoulder to weep upon, support and understanding.

Together we can do amazing things to change the world and bring mental illness out of the shadows of horror films, and into the light of the human condition.

Citations

  1. Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml#part_154785
  2. Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml#part_154788
  3. Any Disorder Among Children. (n.d.) Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-disorder-among-children.shtml
  4. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/schizophrenia.shtml
  5. Bipolar Disorder Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/bipolar-disorder-among-adults.shtml
  6. Major Depression Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml
  7. Any Anxiety Disorder Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml
  8. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings, NSDUH Series H-50, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4927. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Retrieved October 27, 2015 from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf
  9. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development. (2011). The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2010HomelessAssessmentReport.pdf
  10. Glaze, L.E. & James, D.J. (2006). Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs Washington, D.C. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/mhppji.pdf
  11. National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. (2007). Blueprint for Change: A Comprehensive Model for the Identification and Treatment of Youth with Mental Health Needs in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System.Delmar, N.Y: Skowyra, K.R. & Cocozza, J.J. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.ncmhjj.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2007_Blueprint-for-Change-Full-Report.pdf
  12. Use of Mental Health Services and Treatment Among Children. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/use-of-mental-health-services-and-treatment-among-children.shtml
  13. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Service Use among Adults. HHS Publication No. SMA-15-4906. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015. Retrieved July 2017, from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/MHServicesUseAmongAdults/MHServicesUseAmongAdults.pdf.
  14. Kessler, R.C., et al. (2005). Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of 12-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbitity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry62(6), 593–602. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=208671
  15. Insel, T.R. (2008). Assessing the Economic Costs of Serious Mental Illness. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 165(6), 663-665
  16. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, The Department of Health & Human Services. (2009). HCUP Facts and Figures: Statistics on Hospital-based Care in the United States, 2009. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/factsandfigures/2009/pdfs/FF_report_2009.pdf
  17. Colton, C.W. & Manderscheid, R.W. (2006). Congruencies in Increased Mortality Rates, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Causes of Death Among Public Mental Health Clients in Eight States. Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice and Policy3(2), 1–14. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1563985/
  18. National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Council. (2006). Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness.Alexandria, VA: Parks, J., et al. Retrieved January 16, 2015 from http://www.nasmhpd.org/docs/publications/MDCdocs/Mortality%20and%20Morbidity%20Final%20Report%208.18.08.pdf
  19. S. Department of Education. (2014). 35th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/2013/parts-b-c/35th-idea-arc.pdf
  20. National Institutes of Mental Health (2018). “Suicide.” Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml
  21. Isometsa, E.T., (2001). Psychological Autopsy Studies – A Review. European Psychiatry, 16(7), 379-85. Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11728849​
  22. S. Department of Veteran Affairs Mental Health Services Suicide Prevention Program. (2012). Suicide Data Report, 2012. Kemp, J. & Bossarte, R. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Suicide-Data-Report-2012-final.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “My Take on Why Mental Health Awareness Month is Important

  1. I appreciate your articles and also your postings as to how you are feeling.

    I am the friend of a person with DID and also schizoaffective bipolar diagnosis. I understand that diagnosis is rare.   I try very hard to be supportive and let this person know that I am there for them.  Also not a threat to them. Sometimes I fail, other times I can do the happy dance for just a moment. But if you look past all of the anxious, snappy moments that happen on any given day you will see the real person. The person you care so much about.  I celebrate in seeing those glimpses.

    Thanks for sharing your story.  It really does help people like me understand and better support those who are hurting with mental illness.

    Like

    1. Its hearing from people like you that makes all my struggles worthwhile. I find real purpose in writing about how DID and childhood trauma have impacted my life so that others can heal. Since you care so much for your friend, you are on a healing journey too. Remember, take care of you because if you don’t, you let yourself and your friend down. Shirley

      Like

  2. Shirley, I was also struck that no one had replied to the message you wrote on May 1st. I thought it was incredibly brave of you to share so openly. I am glad to read here that the intensity of the crisis has subsided. I think you’re right that sometimes people look away from other people’s suffering simply because they are at a loss for words, but I think your your presence here and all that you share and write are reaching the hearts and minds of far more people than you realize and in ways you may not realize. It is a wonderful thing you’re doing. You are making a difference in the world, educating others, which will in turn have countless other positive effects.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much Lari. I desperately needed to hear this. The intensity of my symptoms have eased, but I’m not out of the proverbial woods yet and hearing such encouraging words helps enormously. You’re a true friend and I value that very highly. Shirley

      Like

Thank you for commenting! Shirley

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