Mental health is something everyone should care about, and I mean everyone. Why? Well, consider the following facts:
Suicide is treatable and preventable if the person is given the right support and treatment. We talk a lot about health and wellness. There are loads of Instagram influencers who talk about diet and exercise. We talk about how important it is to avoid sugar and eat super foods. We talk about vitamins, supplements, and shakes, but we never talk about mental health or mental illness. Mental health is used as a marketing tool to sell fitness and supplements, but it’s never seriously discussed. It’s a taboo subject.
Here’s another interesting fact: there is an average of 11 years between the time a person first experiences symptoms of mental illness and the time they start treatment. Can you imagine living with the symptoms of a broken leg for 11 years before you saw an orthopedic doctor? The top 3 barriers to treatment are cost, stigma, and transportation.
Let’s knock out items one and three first. Mental healthcare is not cheap or affordable. It’s expensive. It’s really expensive. Most healthcare plans only cover a portion of it leaving you to pay the rest out of pocket. If you have an outstanding bill most psychiatrists, therapists, and mental hospitals will not see you until that bill is paid, which means a lot of people are turned away when they do reach out for help. Specialty clinics and group treatment facilities are really expensive and either don’t accept insurance or are not covered by insurance plans. Mental healthcare is hard to find. People who live in rural areas have to travel an hour or more by car to get access to quality mental healthcare. People who live in large cities have to travel to the suburbs for the same.
Stigma is the biggest barrier to treatment. The dictionary defines stigma as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Stigma to those with mental illness means fear of losing their job, their families, and their friends. People with mental illness are rejected, bullied, and discriminated against so much it is the norm rather than the exception. Navigating life with a mental illness is hard. The isolation, blame, and secrecy that is driven by stigma create the biggest challenges for people to reach out and ask for help and seek treatment. Stigma can push people to the brink of suicide. No one chooses to be mentally ill. Eating disorders and addiction are not choices that people make. They are the result of mental illness.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. Thirty one days dedicated to raising awareness, busting myths, teaching and learning about mental health and mental illness. I will be devoting all of my blog posts to mental health and mental illness this month. I will share resources. Mental illness has affected me and my family profoundly. I want to help those who don’t understand how they can help. My small hometown in Northern Michigan has been plagued by teen suicides this past year. I’ve watched heartbroken as the community grapples with grief, confusion, and disbelief. They want to know why. They want to know how to prevent more kids from taking their own life. I want to try and answer those questions.
Please google the following organizations:
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Mental Health America
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
These organizations are a great place to start to learn more about mental health, mental illness, and suicide prevention.
On May 15th at 2pm there will be a live Twitter chat hosted by Dr. Kevin Chapman and Dr. Debra Kissen. These experts will bust common myths surrounding anxiety and share the actual corresponding facts. Anxiety is the most common mental illness and one of the leading culprits for suicide. Use the hashtag #Mythbusters to join the conversation and ask questions, and follow @Got_anxiety for updates.