Mental health has recently come to the forefront of public discourse, and it’s long overdue. Here are just a few facts from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
- Mental illness costs America $193 billion in lost earnings per year
- Mood disorders are the 3rd most common cause of hospitalization in the US for ages 18-44
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and the 2nd leading cause among ages 10-34
- More than 90% of those who die via suicide show symptoms of mental illness
Numbers don’t lie, mental illness is a serious issue around the world, especially in the United States. While plenty of research is being done today to change these stats, there are still many misconceptions about mental illness. I’ve listed 5 popular ones here in hopes of creating a discussion around how we can better serve our peers:
- Mental illness affects a small portion of the population
Fact: 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness every year, and many of them do it in complete and utter silence. While these various mental illnesses can have a wide range of severity, each of them should be taken very seriously.
If you have more than a couple of friends/co-workers, there is a very good chance that at least one of them suffers from a minor form of mental illness, even if you have no idea. This is not some “minor issue”, ladies and gentlemen. It is a widespread problem that affects millions of people every single day.
If we want to empower our friends with mental health issues to come forward and get help, then it’s time for all of us to stop acting like it’s a rarity, because in reality, it is commonplace.
- Mental illness not as serious as “concrete” illness
There are now more patients suffering from mental diseases in the United States than from all other diseases combined. So, why do many of us still treat them almost like a 2nd hand illness?
By 2nd hand, I mean just not quite as important or serious. When we hear that someone has cancer, we panic, usually for good reason. But when we hear someone is suffering from mental illness, it doesn’t hit us the same way. Why? Some would argue it’s because “we can’t see it”, but I disagree. You can’t see a cancer patient’s cancer without proper equipment, but you can see the side effects. In the same way, you may not be able to see someone’s mental illness, but you can see the dark fruit it bears.
It can be completely debilitating, and in some very unfortunate cases, life ending. It’s not fun to talk about, but more important now than ever. Mental health has serious implications on our lives, and we should be willing to do whatever it takes to work on ourselves so that we may help others.
- Mental illness stems from personal issues/character flaws
This line of thinking is very harmful, whether you have a mental illness or not. If you don’t, it inhibits your ability to genuinely help others because your perception of their issues is completely wrong. If you do suffer from them, the consequences can be far worse.
Do not blame yourself for an issue you cannot control. That doesn’t give you an excuse to not get help, but there’s no need for self-deprecating thoughts or speech.
- It’s rude to ask friends/family about their mental health
It might be awkward or uncomfortable at first, but it’s certainly not rude. If anything, your concern could be the first step toward drastically changing that person’s life. Or, in severe cases, save it.
Think about this with me: Sure, mental illness can be a very sensitive topic, carrying with it years of baggage and circumstances which you cannot control or change. However, isn’t it still worth it? Isn’t the risk of a little awkwardness worth showing those close to you that you care about them? Of course, it is!
I don’t know very many people who would say that it’s not worth it- so why aren’t we having these conversations? Maybe it’s because we don’t think it’s that serious, or maybe we aren’t paying close enough attention. Whatever the reason may be, we should get passed allowing awkwardness to keep us from checking in on the people we care about.
- Mental illness has to last forever
Many mental illnesses are completely curable! And even if there is no complete cure, treatment can make a world of difference in your life! Due to the recent spike in interest and research surrounding mental health, today’s treatments are more sophisticated and accurate, and they are constantly evolving to get better!
Researchers, scientists, and mental health specialists are doing amazing work in this field right now- don’t let their work go to waste! They are doing this to help you, just as they have helped millions of other people. If you are struggling, that’s okay, but don’t stay that way. There are people who care about you and have access to a plethora of resources which change lives all over the world.
I want to end this with some resources which you can use to help yourself or someone you know struggling with mental illness:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline: 1-877-726-4727
- Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
Participate in a Clinical Trial
- Want to be a part of the solution to mental illness? Visit ClinicalTrials.gov to learn more about how to participate, refer a patient, or learn about studies
Their mission: Making professional counseling accessible, affordable, convenient – so anyone who struggles with life’s challenges can get help, anytime, anywhere.