Thursday, June 20, 2013

Five Reasons to Care About Mental Health Care

Often my blogs are a bit more "all life encompassing", with an underlying emphasis on mental health. However, once in a while, I think it's important to point out why I'm so passionate about mental health, and why one does not need to have a mental health condition in order to learn and care about the topic. So I thought I'd share a few of my "top reasons" for people to truly gain a better understanding of mental health.
  • Studies have traditionally recorded that 1 in 4 Americans deal with a mental health condition in any given year. New studies have now increased that number to as much as 1 in 3 American adults.  For children, that number is 1 in 5. While numbers will certainly vary from country to country, the prevalence is high enough that the World Health Organization has created a "Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan" for the years 2013-2020. 
  • Mental health does not just include more "serious" conditions like bipolar and schizophrenia, as many people think. It also encompasses conditions such as Eating Disorders, Sleep-wake Disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder  (ADD/ADHD), and Substance Use Disorders, many of which are prevalent not only in adults, but in teens and youth as well. 
  • Symptoms do not have to be extreme to be considered a mental health condition. For instance, cyclothymia is characterized by "milder" mood swings than the better known bipolar disorder, while dysthymia is described as "mild, but long term (chronic) form of depression" (source: Mayo Clinic). Many people can go years or even decades battling symptoms before being diagnosed and getting treatment. 
  • The correlation between mental health and violence towards others has been grossly overstated by the media and the lack of understanding about mental health from the general public. Because of this, those with mental health conditions are facing increasingly negative stigma. Studies done in the U.K.  - unfortunately no statistics were provided for the U.S. - showed that 95 percent of homicides were committed by those with no diagnosis of any type of mental illness. (Source: Time To Change).  Mental health conditions can be difficult enough, without having to deal with stigma from one's social circle, colleagues, and employers. 
  • In 2009, suicide was the third leading cause of death among people ages 15-24, accounting for 14.4 percent of all deaths. (source: NIHM). Other suicide facts include:
    • Up to 20% of those diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder die from suicide. 
    • Up to 15% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia die from suicide. 
    • Those diagnosed with a personality disorder are three times as likely to die from suicide as those without. (source for the above: Mental Health Reporting)
Mental health can be touchy subject for many people. Those who are diagnosed often don't want to talk about it, and those who are not diagnosed often are uncomfortable asking about it. This makes learning about and understanding mental health all the more important. The battle to spread mental health awareness and change the perception is certainly an uphill one, but the more people who work to do so, the more quickly and effectively we can overcome the stigma and focus on the actual important tasks, like research, treatment, and helping those who deal with these conditions every day. 

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