Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day, which serves as yet another opportunity for us to stop and think about this ever so important subject with the aim of, in some way or another, help those affected. The World Health Organisation estimates that over 450 million people are suffering from mental illness worldwide and is one of the top causes of ill-health and disability.
What that means is that chances are you will in your lifetime know of someone in your household, neighbourhood or workplace who has mental health problems. What’s more, the problem is on the rise. A recent Guardian article reported that the police force in Britain received a phone call every five minutes, from people who were in reality not in need of the police’s help, but that of a mental health professional. That thought is sobering; to think that so many people need mental health aid, but do not even know who really to turn to for it. Perhaps even more worrisome, however, is that one in five Brits have thought of committing suicide. Because I currently reside in North East England, it was particularly poignant to learn that this region is the country’s hotspot for depression and anxiety issues. The problem is likewise of major concern in the United States, with one in five Americans experiencing mental illness within a given year.
So we’re crystal clear just what we’re talking about, here’s a simple enough definition: mental illness can be defined as a medical condition which impacts upon the thinking, emotion and /or the behaviour of a person and affects their ability to function in daily life. Here are 8 things you might not have known about it:
1. Mental illness sufferers are not “doomed for life”
Although there’s currently no all-encompassing cure, there are an increasing range of treatments available, many of which have been extremely successful in enabling individuals to cope with and manage their condition. These now transcend traditional methods into the realm of web-based and mobile apps. People with mental illnesses can thrive within their social lives, at school and within the workplace if given the appropriate support.
2. Children are not immune to mental illness
In fact, it is reported that half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14. Further, the prevalence of mental health concerns among youth is on the rise, with the number of depressed adolescents jumping by nearly 40% in less than 10 years.
3. There is no archetype of a person with a mental illness sufferer
There is no one type of person who is afflicted by a mental health condition. Mental health problems affect people of all ages, genders, races, ethnic compositions, religions, social class and backgrounds.
4. High functioning mental health problems
Many individuals suffering from mental health issues are afraid of not being perceived as ‘sick enough’ to be given the help they need. They may be suffering from what’s been termed high functioning mental disorders, which often include depression and anxiety. These may be the most insidious of all, as a person who appears outgoing, cheerful and successful may seldom be suspected as having an underlying problem with mental health.
5. There is no checklist for symptoms of mental illness
The functioning of the human brain far surpasses the comprehension of even the most learned medical professionals. I love how Dr Grohol put it, “Our understanding of the mind today is at approximately the same place as a doctor’s understanding of the heart was 200 years ago”. It’s not hard to imagine, therefore, that illnesses that affect this extraordinary organ are incredibly complex, and can be manifested in innumerable ways. Symptoms of poor mental health varies with the unique characteristics, environment and circumstances of an individual. Symptoms could range from listlessness to severe irritability to psychosis.
6. Mental health treatment is often inaccessible
Many who need help with their mental health problems are unable to do so because of the shortage of mental health professionals. In parts of the United States, for instance, the ratio of a mental health professionals (including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counsellors, and psychiatric nurses) to individuals is 1:1000. Meanwhile, the picture in developing countries is even more bleak.
7. Mental health treatment is expensive
Many who need help are unable to do so because of the prohibitive costs of getting treatments. It's been reported that within the US, households throughout the nation spent an average of 10 percent of their family's annual income for mental health/substance abuse treatment. It's heartening that there are signs that governments in developed lands are waking up to the seriousness of the plight and are making strides in making treatment more attainable for their citizens. England's experiment with offering virtually open-ended talk therapy free of charge at clinics nationwide is the most notable of these initiatives and hold promise for more widespread application in the future.
8. Many feel the symptoms will go away on their own
People with mental issues do not immediately recognise that what they are experiencing is a result of mental health. What's more, a large number of individuals choose not to seek help as they believe the problems they are experiencing will just go away by themselves, or that they simply need to adjust to a “new normal” way of being.
The fact of the matter is that mental health has a direct and tangible impact on your overall well-being and physical health. We must face up to the problems associated with mental health as real, diverse and threatening to the very fabric of human civilization. Every member of society has a role to play, not least of which are employers - this is discussed in further detail in a related article found here.
I'd love to hear from you- what do you think of the progress of mental health awareness and the steps being taken to help those in need?