May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Part One


#1 - The Cost of Mental Illness


By Terry Bailey



Earlier this month the Mitchell County Commissioners and the Mayor of Beloit signed proclamations declaring the month of May to be “Mental Health Awareness” month in Beloit and in all of Mitchell County.


The catchphrase is “End the stigma. Tell your story.” This refers to the fact that when people have appendicitis or diabetes, they will seek medical help. However, when they suffer with feelings of depression, they feel like they have to “suck it up,” do not say anything to anybody, and not let it bother them. There is a stigma that admitting being troubled by any type of mental disorder is a sign of weakness. Because of this stigma, this feeling of being deficient in some way, people neglect seeking counseling or assistance. They continue to live lives that are much less full than they otherwise could be.


For those feeling as if “I am the only one that feels this way. I must be really messed up.” Consider these statistics.


*One in five adults in the U.S., about 44 million people, experiences mental illness in a given year.


*One in twenty-five adults in the U.S., about ten million people, experiences a severe mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with one or more major life activities.


*One in five youths aged 13-18 experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.


*Sixteen million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.


*Among the twenty million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, about fifty percent had a co-occurring mental illness.


The above statistics indicate that if you are feeling down for longer than a day or two or if you feel isolated or lonely or if you keep waiting for things to change or to get better and they do not, it could be that you could benefit from the assistance of a mental health professional. Remember, you do not have to be on death’s door to seek medical assistance. The same is true with mental health issues.


Statistics also indicate that even if you are not concerned about your own level of mental health, our society is greatly affected by the mental health of our citizens. Consider these statistics:


*Twenty-six percent of homeless adults staying in shelters live with a serious mental illness.


*Twenty percent of state prisoners and twenty-one percent of local jail prisoners have a “recent history” of a mental health condition.


* Seventy percent of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least twenty percent live with a serious mental illness.


*Only forty-one percent of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition will receive mental health services in the past year.


*One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14, three-quarters by age 24. There are often long delays between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.


It is obvious that struggling with mental health issues is not an isolated situation. It is much more prevalent than most people imagine. It can surface before the age of ten. It can happen when folks are elderly. Some instances of mental illness are very minor and come and go. Others are very significant and can have life or death consequences.



Consider these facts:


*Serious mental illness costs America $192.2 billion in lost earnings last year.


*Mood disorders are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S.


*Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical concerns.


*Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., the third leading cause for death people ages 10-24, and the 2nd leading cause of death of people 15-24.


*More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.


*Each day and estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.


There is no doubt that mental illness is a very real part of our society. It was present in Biblical times and it is present in the twenty-first century. It affects the young and old. It affects men and women. It affects the rich and the poor. It affects all ethnic groups. And it has very real consequences when it goes untreated.

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