Some statistics about mental illness:
- 46.6 million people, or almost one in five of U.S. adults, had a mental illness in 2017.
- More than 300 million people around the world have depression, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
- An eating disorder kills one person every sixty-two minutes in the United States.
- In the United States, about 31.1 percent of adults experience an anxiety disorder during some point in their lives.
These statistics show that mental illnesses are very common in the United States and around the world. Sadly, they also show that mental illnesses may be deadly if we ignore them and don’t treat them.
That’s why it’s important to acknowledge mental illnesses. For example, every year we commemorate Mental Illness Awareness Week in October. In 2019, the week is from October 6th through October 12th.
The awareness week and other efforts help publicize the fact that mental illnesses are common. They shouldn’t be stigmatized because they aren’t character flaws. Mental illnesses are illnesses that require medical and therapeutic treatment, not flaws that deserve stigmas and punishment.
If people don’t receive treatment, their mental and physical health may continue to decline. They may begin using drugs and alcohol to self-treat their symptoms and to cope with stigmas. But excessive alcohol and drug use may make their physical and mental health worse, so they become trapped in patterns of mental illness and addiction.
Effective treatment may break such destructive patterns and address many mental health concerns. People may seek mental health assistance from community mental health organizations, other groups and programs, counselors, and doctors.
While accessing such help, people are free to talk about mental illness. These discussions and efforts such as Mental Illness Awareness Week help demystify and destigmatize mental illness.
The efforts help explain what mental illness is and what it isn’t. They allow people to ask and answer questions. They provide information and comfort instead of confusion and stigma.
Such efforts illustrate that mental illness is a serious, complex condition that we need to talk about more. By talking about it, we can show just how common it is, that it can affect all kinds of people, that it does affect all kinds of people.
People with mental illnesses aren’t crazy, defective, or immoral. They just need help. And by talking about mental illness, we can help people find this assistance.
About the author: Pamela Zuber is a writer and editor who has written about a wide variety of topics, including health and wellness, Orange County rehab centers and other treatment options, human rights, and gender politics.