May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s incredibly important for us to speak up about the issues surrounding mental health. Over the course of any given year, 1 in 5 American adults will be living with a mental heath condition. Nearly 100% of us will interact with someone, be it a family member or friend or random person in line at Starbucks, that is dealing with some mental health issue.
In any given year, 2 and a half Million Americans live with Schizophrenia. 6 Million live with Bipolar Disorder. 16 Million with Depression and 42 Million with Anxiety Disorders.
With so many people in the world affected by these issues, you would think that the stigma surrounding mental health would have faded. Unfortunately this could not be further from the truth. Think about the typical reaction to seeing a person with schizophrenia on the street that may be talking to themselves or yelling. Most people would call the person a “nutjob” or “crazy”. This stigmatizes the individual and makes them feel down about their situation.
The thing about mental health diagnoses is that you cannot see them. If a family member has cancer or diabetes, we understand that and can see the symptoms. It helps us to be more empathetic. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the symptoms if our family member is struggling with depression.
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has done a great job in the past years of working to destigmatize these illnesses. Right now, their campaign is to have us all be #StigmaFree. This is a worthy cause and something we should all work toward.
The issue with stigmatizing mental illness is it makes the individual feel like they are not worthy and they may not get treatment. We have to talk openly and honestly about these illnesses and the necessary treatments. Every year around 42,750 Americans die by suicide. That’s about 117 a day. For every one suicide, there are 25 people that attempted suicide. Each day 18-22 veterans die by suicide. 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness.
There is treatment available, but we have to be empathetic to everyone’s situation. We have to be there when our family and friends are having questions or need someone to talk to. Of everyone that has a mental illness in America, nearly 60% did not receive mental health services in the past year. Minorities seek help at half the rate of White Americans.
If you are experiencing any symptoms or know someone who is, visit with a physician. There are groups available that can help by finding others that are experiencing the same symptoms. NAMI.org (800-950-6264) is a good place to start.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts please get in contact with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) 273-8255. If you are more comfortable with texting, you can text “Start” to 741-741 to be connected with a trained crisis counselor at the Crisis Text Line.
We all have a part to play in this. Join me in making not only this Mental Health Awareness Month of May stigma free, but every day.