People often try to sweep the symptoms of mental illness under the rug. The average time between the onset of symptoms and when a person gets treatment is 8-10 years. Feelings of shame or judgment can make it difficult to reach out for help. The mental health community has been campaigning to reduce fear and the associated stigma for around 70 years. Where are we now?
“Judging from recent statistics, it seems we are winning the battle but losing the war,” says John Walters, LISW-CP a Roper St. Francis Healthcare licensed clinical social worker.
Here’s the numbers from 2017:
47,000 died by suicide
70,000 died from drug overdoses
88,000 died from alcohol abuse
17,300,000 million Americans experienced at least one major depressive episode
More significantly, the life expectancy of Americans decreased for the three years prior to 2017. Researchers explain that the diseases of despair – alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide – could be to blame.
Of the 46.6 million adults who experience a mental disorder every year, only 41% of them will receive treatment. Addressing symptoms of poor mental health early in their development can help people recover faster or learn coping skills that can make life easier.
These are a few signs to look for:
Sleep issues – either sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
Focus problems – brain feels foggy and thoughts are racing
Appetite – overeating or don’t feel like eating at all
Isolation – avoiding friends, family and activities you typically enjoy
Mood swings – uncontrollable highs or lows or feeling unusually irritable
Alcohol or drug abuse – an increased amount of harmful drinking or drug use
If you’re struggling with mental illness, there’s some good news. Like any other illness, most conditions are treatable with therapy, medication or a combination of the two. Also, you’re not alone. Mental illness is common. One in five adults experience some form of it each year. There are more than 10 million adults in the U.S. living with a serious mental disorder. That’s 1 in 25.
Stigma is real, no matter what the source is. Don’t let it stop you from getting treatment. If it feels like you can’t control it, it doesn’t mean that you’re weak, and you have no reason to be ashamed.
“For many people, mental healthcare begins with them acknowledging their need for some assistance. Overcoming the stigma of needing mental health assistance is an important first step in receiving care,” says Walters.
If you think you might be (or know you are) struggling with mental illness, address it now. Sometimes a few minor lifestyle changes can help improve your mental health. Mental Health America recommends these 31 tips, ranging from diet changes to creative activities.
Lastly, consider reaching out to a therapist. Roper St. Francis Physician Partners Behavioral Medicine has a team of mental health providers who treat a variety of mental illnesses. Request an appointment online or call (843) 727-DOCS.