• Mckenzie Dow

World Mental Health Day

Greetings All. Today is World Mental Health Day, so I thought that I would write a bit about mental health in general to bring awareness and tear down some stereotypes. It is so important to remember that it is okay to not be okay. Brené Brown says "What we don't need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human" and mental illness is a part of being human for so many. The amount of stigma remaining around mental illness is disgraceful and the more we know the facts, the less stigma there needs to be.

I would like to start by reminding us all of some facts around mental illness.

Approximately 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness in a given year in the U.S. (NIMH, 2015). That is 18.5%!! This is a serious chunk of the large American population, meaning no one is immune to being effected by mental health conditions.

In Ireland, approximately 52% have had some experience of people with mental health problems. (Healthy Ireland Survey, 2016). Mental health problems are prevalent across the pond too. This means that half the country has had someone in their life who has experienced a mental health condition at some point. This underlines the vast impact of mental health conditions.

Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13-18 experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life in the U.S. (NIMH, 2015) That is 20.4%!! Again, no one is completely isolated the impact of mental illness.

Those living in Dublin report lower scores on a mental health index than those living elsewhere (79.8% and 85.2% respectively). This suggests higher levels of psychological distress in Dublin. (Healthy Ireland Survey, 2016) This tells us how mental health can vary between different geographic locations. Dublin contains a large amount of the Irish population.

An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness or substance use disorders in the U.S. (U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2011). These are huge numbers! The social stigma around homelessness is such a shame when we understand that many of these people are experiencing UNTREATED mental health conditions that may be impairing their ability to maintain jobs and social supports. Homelessness is often a consequence of mental health problems being untreated.

20% of people have or have had a mental health condition in Ireland. (Healthy Ireland Survey, 2015). Again, this a large chunk of the population.

More than 90% of children in the U.S. who die by suicide have a mental health condition. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999, NIMH, 2015) This is a powerful stat indicating the serious impact of mental illness on children and how it relates to suicide. Sometimes suicide is a consequence of an untreated mental health disorder.

For people who have had or currently have a mental illness diagnosis, it can be very challenging for them to speak out about what they are going through. This is because of the stigma that still exists in our world toward people who have mental health disorders. I would like to debunk some of the myths surrounding mental health disorders.

Myth: People with mental illness are violent, disturbed, and unpredictable.

UNTRUE because the majority of people with a mental health condition are not violent and do not act out in ways people may think are disturbed. The behaviours around mental health are misunderstood and that is why it is important to be educated and open minded.

Myth: People with depression are just sad and lazy.

UNTRUE. Depression goes far beyond just being sad. It can affect your sleep, your appetite, your diet, and your ability to get enjoyment out of things, among many other symptoms. No person chooses to be depressed. Instagram often makes it look like people can just 'choose' to be happy, but for someone who is depressed, being ordinarily happy isn't a 'choice'.

Myth: People with mental illness cannot hold down a job.

UNTRUE. Not everyone with a mental health condition is unable to work. With strong support systems, an understanding and open-minded employer, and proper treatment people with mental illness are capable of holding down a job. Obstacles to employment for people with mental illness often include stigma, lack of understanding from the employer and unavailability of treatment, NOT the mental illness itself.

Myth: Getting treatment for a mental illness means you are weak.

UNTRUE because getting treatment for a mental illness is very hard. I see how challenging it is for the service-users at my own job all the time. Often times treatments can feel scary and foreign. It often involves a lot of self-reflection and trying something new, which is challenging for so many, regardless of your mental health. So in fact, it is actually quite brave and demonstrates strength to seek treatment for a mental illness. It can be a long road and to step forward and take charge of your health is NOT a weakness.

Myth: Having a mental health condition is a sign of personal failure.

UNTRUE. No one chooses to have a mental illness. Mental health conditions can have a range of causes, none of which are simply failure. It can be biological, genetic, environmental, a result of trauma, etc. More likely, it is a combination of many things. We are continuing to learn so much about the causes of mental health, and we know that it is not a sign of personal failure.

I know all those Stats and myths can be quite negative, but there is hope. In 2015, in an Irish survey 83% of people surveyed stated that they would be willing to continue a relationship with a friend who developed a mental health problem. Also, 70% reported that they would be willing to work with someone who has a mental health condition. Additionally 77% said they would be willing to live near someone with a mental health problem and 54% said they would be willing to live with someone with a mental health problem (Healthy Ireland Survey, 2015).

The results of this survey tell us that times are changing in regards to mental health. More and more we see outspoken celebrities speaking about their mental illness experiences. Research continues about mental illness. Things are slowly moving forward, even if it doesn't feel that way. With the continuous education and growing open-mindedness, things can get better for people with mental illness. If we keep advocating for people and continue to educate ourselves we can make this world a better place for those with mental health problems.

No one should be ashamed of their mental health problem and hopefully we can get to a place where this is the case.

If you are feeling really low or are having thoughts of suicide, please contact the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you live in the United States and Samaritans at 116 123 if you live in Ireland, both free of charge. Someone is always listening. You are not alone.

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