May is national mental health awareness month, and as someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, this is an issue close to home. Approximately 43.8 million adults experience mental illness every year in America. 20% of youth ages 13-18 currently live with a mental health condition, and 1 in 4 people in the world will experience mental illness at some point in their life (National health Alliance, Mental Health by the Numbers) The statistics are overwhelming; mental illness is no joke, yet many people still treat it like one. Even if you yourself have not personally experienced mental illness, it’s likely someone close to you has. Thus, I would like to use this post to not only present you with some important statistics, but to get people talking about the issue at hand.
Despite the amount of people currently suffering from mental illnesses, very few are actually receiving the treatment they need: “shockingly, of the 450 million people worldwide who suffer from mental health conditions, the majority (60 percent) do not receive any form of care, with 90 percent of people in developing countries receiving no form of care” (Michael Friedman, The Stigma of Mental Illness is Making Us Sicker). This can be attributed to many causes- lack of awareness, and stigma surrounding mental illness being two predominant ones that often go hand in hand. As Patrick Corrigan and Amy Watson of University of Chicago’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Chicago Consortium for Stigma Research state, “people with serious mental illness are challenged doubly. On one hand, they struggle with the symptoms and disabilities that result from the disease. On the other, they are challenged by the stereotypes and prejudice that result from misconceptions about mental illness” (Patrick Corrigan & Amy Watson, Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness).
“Stigma” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” Stigmas surrounding mental illness exist in plain sight, yet some people are still unable to acknowledge their presence and prevalence in society. For example, when I had the flu as a kid, I was encouraged by my teachers and doctors to stay home from school and recover. On the contrary, when I was suffering from severe clinical insomnia and depression, my primary care doctor refused to write me a note excusing my absences from school. (As you can probably guess, she’s not my doctor anymore). As a result, I felt that if I couldn’t talk to my own doctor about my condition without being judged or mislabeled, I couldn’t talk to anyone. It is likely that many kids and adults alike feel this way as well, resulting in the low rates of treatments we see in regards to mental health today. This gross incompetence shows that stigmas and misconceptions exist not only within society, but in the medical community as well. It is time for this to change, starting by talking about mental illness.
Mental health is equally as important as physical health. In the United States especially, this can be easy to forget. Capitalism, though it brings a world of benefits, promotes a culture where an ill person can’t call in sick to their job without fear of losing their job. Not to mention the rise of social media, which undoubtedly has contributed to a rise in anxiety and depression in the past 5 years: “Diagnoses of major depression have risen dramatically by 33 percent since 2013. This rate is rising even faster among millennials (up 47 percent) and adolescents (up 47 percent for boys and 65 percent for girls)” (Blue Cross Blue Shield, MAJOR DEPRESSION: THE IMPACT ON OVERALL HEALTH). In a 2017 study, it was discovered that people who reported using 7-11 social media platforms were more than 3 times more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who reported using 0-2 social media platforms (Computers and Human Behaviour). The fact of the matter is that mental illness is a huge problem, and one that isn’t going away any time soon, but rather only growing larger.
If you’re currently suffering from mental illness, you are not alone (as you can see by the statistics previously presented). If you are suffering from mental illness, it is okay and extremely important to talk about it, for the sake of your own health and for the sake of ending stigmas that surround mental health. Talk to a trusted adult, a counselor, your doctor, your friends, your family- anyone.
My hope for the future is that one day people will be able to speak about mental illness as openly as they do about physical illness. Just because you can’t visibly see a health problem, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It is time to increase awareness and end harmful stigmas surrounding mental health conditions, and we can start by simply talking about it. I have spoken openly about my issues in the past, and promise to continue doing so in the future, and I hope this post encourages you to do so as well. As always, please feel free to reach out to me with your stories, questions, concerns, or if you just need someone to talk to.
Lastly, if mental illness is something you are passionate about like me, and you are seeking a way to help spread awareness, I invite you to purchase a Mental Health Awareness bracelet from PuraVida. 10% of profits will be donated to Mental Health America (MHA), the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans (PuraVida). I love to support companies that give back, especially to a cause I hold dear to me. You can use the code “ISABELAVANACORE20″ for 20% off your order today.
If you or someone you know are suffering from a serious mental illness and need immediate help, please refer to the resources outlined below.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7
Crisis Text Line: 741741, available 24/7