May is Mental Health Month
Mental health affects everyone. Many of you experience your own struggle with stress, anxiety, and depression, and all of you at least know someone who has. In fact, about 20% of all US adults experience mental illness. That’s a lot of neighbors and friends.
It’s challenging enough recognizing and learning to deal with your own limitations, but dealing with society’s reaction can often be demoralizing. Society doesn’t have a good track record of embracing things that are different; it only takes a casual glance at the history books to show us the decades and thousands of human lives it can take before a new concept takes root.
Despite treatment advancements, those who have many mental illnesses are still often considered highly unpredictable and dangerous. Though the laws of the ADA protects against discrimination in the workplace, for example, the stigma persists.
So let’s dispel some myths.
1. People with mental illnesses are dangerous.
Those without mental illnesses are the perpetrators of 95% of all violent crimes and those with mental illnesses are ten times more likely to be the victim of a violent act (source). In fact, those with mental illnesses tend to be more reclusive and have a harder time entering society; 90% of all suicide attempts are committed by someone struggling with mental illness (source).
2. Mental illness is rare.
According to NAMI, about 1 in 5 US adults experience mental illness. That’s 43.8 million or 18.5% (source). The average US adult has 338 Facebook friends, so that means about 67 of those friends deal with mental illness (source).
3. It doesn’t matter what ‘society’ thinks since there are so many resources to help them.
Nearly 60% of all individuals dealing with mental illness didn’t receive any services or treatment last year (source). More education and community involvement can decrease this number by providing more education and links to appropriate resources. Moreover, what our friends and family think of us matters and can directly impact our health (source). When someone is dealing with mental health challenges, their support network can sometimes be the difference between life and death.
4. Mental illness is a genetic defect. There’s nothing we can do to reduce the numbers.
While a proclivity for mental illness can be genetic (like a proclivity for heart problems), the life we live makes a big difference. Trauma early in life is shown to be one of the biggest contributors to long-term mental illnesses, but many of these diagnoses aren’t made until much later in life (source). The more mental health professionals we have, the more they’re trained, the more families are educated and connected to resources, then the more we can fight this problem.
Don’t let the myths get you down. We are part of the support network to someone, even if we don’t know it. Do the research and get involved to make your community a better place to be.