May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it’s the perfect time to learn more about the mental health conditions that affect over 50 million Americans every year—including people you know. Learning about mental illnesses is the first step to standing up against stigma and supporting those who struggle.
1. Mental illness is common.
Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease. One in five Americans experiences mental illness each year. That means if you have 200 Facebook friends, approximately 40 of them may deal with a mental health condition sometime in the next 12 months. And, about 11 of them (5.6%) may live with a serious mental health difficulty such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
2. Lack of treatment is a huge problem.
Many of those dealing with a mental illness don’t receive the treatment they need. More than half of adults and just under half of youth ages 6-17 living with a mental illness received no mental health services in the past year. This lack of treatment hurts those living with mental health conditions, as well as those who love them. When these illnesses are left untreated, the symptoms can become even more debilitating.
3. Mental illness isn’t a sign of spiritual weakness or a punishment for sin.
A mental health condition isn’t the result of a lack of faith any more than a heart defect is a sign that a person hasn’t prayed enough. Mental illnesses are disorders of the brain and, like other physical illnesses, are caused by many different factors including genetics, injury, environmental considerations and damage from drug usage.
4. Mental illnesses can increase the likelihood of other medical issues.
Individuals living with serious mental illnesses face an increased risk of additional chronic medical conditions. However, many don’t receive treatment for ongoing heath issues. On average, they die 25 years earlier than other Americans, largely due to treatable illnesses.
5. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.
While some mental illnesses affect certain populations more than others, no one is immune. Factors like gender, race, age, education, socioeconomic status and environment can all play a role in a person’s risk for developing a mental illness. For example, though major depression is more common in women and young adults than in men and older adults, anyone can struggle with major depressive disorder.
6. Effective treatment is individualized.
Because severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizoaffective disorder are typically persistent illnesses, continuous maintenance is recommended to prevent recurring symptoms. The plan is different for each person. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment that’s effective for everyone. It’s essential that each person struggling with a mental health issue have a plan specific to his or her needs.
7. Anyone struggling with a mental illness can journey toward stability.
The Well believes that recovery is a process, not an event. While serious mental illness impacts individuals in many ways, anyone can take steps toward stability. Along with medication, psychotherapy and other aspects of a treatment plan, the services and support offered at the Well Community help to prevent relapse and reduce the severity of symptoms.
Learn more about the impact of mental illnesses and about common mental health conditions by reading this overview.
The Well Community gives those dealing with mental illnesses a place where they belong, and where they’re encouraged to take steps toward stability. Help us continue to serve them.
All statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org).