Wednesday, October 09 | Human Services, Cause Connected

More Common Than You Think - Mental Illness Awareness Week

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about mental illness: it’s more common than migraines. It is estimated that 12% of adults in the U.S. suffer from migraines1, while 19% suffer from mental health disorders2. We most likely know someone, or even several people, who experience migraines; and chances are, they’re probably pretty open about it. However, you may not be as quick to identify someone who struggles with their mental health. If you do, they most likely don’t publicly talk about it. Despite not being as openly discussed, mental health disorders are widely popular and affect thousands of Americans every day.   

In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, we’re highlighting the commonality of mental health issues in hopes of breaking down the stigma and continuing the conversation. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental health issue every year. These issues can vary from anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder and addiction, among many others.

While commonly experienced, there’s a still stigma that surrounds mental health, causing people to feel ashamed or that their illness isn’t legitimate. The stigma surrounding mental health often deters people from pursing necessary care such as therapy. According to Mental Health First Aid, only 41% of people who had a mental health disorder in the past year received professional healthcare services; therefore more than half of people suffering from a mental health issue did not seek assistance. In addition, Health Services Research reports that the average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years. You wouldn’t hesitate to seek assistance if you were suffering from migraines; it should be the same for any sort of mental health disorder.

Although we may not always know if someone is experiencing a mental health issue, it’s important to know the warning signs and encourage a friend or peer to seek professional guidance if necessary. Common signs individuals can display include3:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Overly sad or low
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs

The signs and symptoms can vary from person to person, and the list above is not comprehensive. If you see these symptoms in a loved one or friend, having an open conversation with them can be a great first step. Acting as a trustworthy source of support can help an individual face their mental health obstacle in a healthy and effective manner.

If you or someone you know is battling a mental health issue, know you're not alone. There are a variety of resources available to get you the proper guidance and services you need. Check out some resources provided by SAMHSA, including the behavioral health treatment services locator or the suicide prevention lifeline. In addition, getting Mental Health First Aid certified is a proactive and hands-on way to educate yourself and fight against the stigma surrounding mental health.

As we continue to bring awareness to mental health, throughout this month and beyond, keeping conversation at the forefront is key. Together we can eliminate the stigma and make a mental health issue just as “normal” as a migraine.

Sources:

  1. SAMHSA: Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States
  2. Migraine Statistics
  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness

 

 

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