Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mental Health Awareness Week

I learned yesterday that this week (October 3-9) is national Mental Illness Awareness Week.  The U.S. Congress declared the first week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week twenty years ago in an effort to draw awareness to mental health and to address the stigma that surrounds mental health.

In researching more about this week, I discovered the name of the week is referred to as both Mental Illness Awareness Week and Mental Health Awareness Week.  It’s an interesting distinction and one worth noting since I would argue that semantics might be one small contributor to stigma.

The stigma that surrounds issues of mental health and mental illness is likely a primary reason why many people do not seek treatment.
  The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a diagnosable mental disorder receive mental health services in a given year. Given that a vast majority of mental health conditions can be treated and that recovery is reliant upon treatment, drawing awareness to mental health is vital for individual and collective well-being.

All one needs to do to realize how much issues of mental health affect our society is watch the news. Stories of troops suffering from PTSD to cases of cyber-bullying and suicide or economy induced depression are abundant.
  And those are just the stories that make headlines.  Think of all the people you may know, if not yourself, suffering through the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a disease, an injury, a lost job.  Those are all issues that have a direct effect on mental health for any human.

Below are a few other interesting factoids about mental health in America from NAMI.  These are just the ones that jumped out most to me.  Check out this NAMI fact sheet to see plenty more. I would presume many of these are even underrepresented. Stigma must create an immeasurable bias.
  • One in four adults (that's 25%!)—approximately 57.7 million Americans—experience a mental health disorder in a given year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder and about one in 10 children live with a serious mental or emotional disorder.
  • Major depressive disorder affects 6.7 percent of adults, or about 14.8 million American adults. According to the 2004 World Health Report, this is the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada in ages between 15-44.
  • Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder and phobias, affect about 18.7 percent of adults, an estimated 40 million individuals. Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depression or addiction disorders.
  • The World Health Organization has reported that four of the 10 leading causes of disability in the US and other developed countries are mental disorders. By 2020, Major Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children. 
  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults living with serious mental illness die 25 years earlier than other Americans, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
  • In the United States, the annual economic, indirect cost of mental illness is estimated to be $79 billion. Most of that amount—approximately $63 billion—reflects the loss of productivity as a result of illnesses.
  • The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.

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