In the second post of the series I want to address the stigma related to mental illness and getting help. Buckle up and get comfy because this post has a lot of information. The last post kind of explained where my first brush with anxiety and mental health came from. For this post, I am going to back away and give you the stats.
According to a 2014 Newsweek article, “nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness each year”. One in Five (42.5 million American adults), just let that settle for a moment. I know I don’t hear about my circle of friends talking about their mental health freely and openly like it’s so normal. These numbers came from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), I am fairly certain they are not running around an polling every person.
I also know that due to stigma there are many people who suffer in silence, afraid to speak up and get any kind of help. The US Surgeon General stated in 1999 that: “Powerful and pervasive, stigma prevents people from acknowledging their own mental health problems, much less disclosing them to others”
Per NAMI’s (National Alliance of Mental Illness) website the number of Americans with Mental Illness is now 46.6 Million, that’s 4.1 Million increase in five years.
Let’s break this down, according to DSM-IV, a mental disorder is a psychological syndrome or pattern which is associated with distress (e.g. via a painful symptom), disability (impairment in one or more important areas of functioning), increased risk of death, or causes a significant loss of autonomy; however it excludes normal responses such as grief from loss of a loved one, and also excludes deviant behavior for political, religious, or societal reasons not arising from a dysfunction in the individual.
If you go strictly by the DSM-IV it would appear that only the most debilitating, classified issues are mental illness. What about anxiety, general depression and countless others? According to the National Institute Mental Health (NIMH) they break these down into “Any Mental Illness” and “Serious Mental Illness”.
“Any mental illness (AMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment (e.g., individuals with serious mental illness as defined below).
Serious mental illness (SMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. The burden of mental illnesses is particularly concentrated among those who experience disability due to SMI.”
Per NIMH, 19.1% of American adults (18+) have some sort of anxiety disorder, 6.8% of adults have had PTSD in their lifetime. This isn’t just military and/or combat either, this includes domestic violence, accidents, natural or human caused disasters and a variety of other factors. World Health Organization (WHO) reports 25% of the world’s population from some form of mental illness. Why aren’t we discussing this more? Why does it take extreme acts to bring these issues to the forefront of the news stations?
If we remove the stigma of discussing mental health at an early age then perhaps more people would get the help they need and less people would feel isolated to the point of completing suicide or violence against others.
Now, what about a chronic illness and mental health? I currently have three diagnosis that are chronic, with no cure and you better believe that gives me anxiety. Harvard health put up an article that discussed anxiety and chronic illness, though for some reason they only looked at respiratory, GI and heart disease. Personally, I think they overlooked a huge portion of the demographic here but it is what it is. Worrying about your health, cost of health if you are in the United States and not one of the amazing countries where it’s free for everyone, the impact it has on your family and friends, of course you are going to have anxiety, any normal person would.
Depression is also increased for those with a chronic illness, per the NIMH website the most common are among the below:
- Coronary heart disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Rheumatoid arthritis
If you aren’t convinced yet that you should seek help if you suffer from anxiety, depression or another mental illness, just know, that constant “fight or flight” from anxiety is bad for your body and your brain. Depression and anxiety can increase inflammation in your body, mess up your stress hormones, interfere with your heart rate and circulation.
According to the National MS Society’s website grief, depression and anxiety are all very common mood changes that happen with a diagnosis. Obviously because the way MS hits people differently, different symptoms, degrees of the symptoms not everyone may get anxiety or depression. The anxiety stems from the unknowing of what is to come, how you will be any given day and the extent of your symptoms which can change at the drop of a hat.
Increased stress makes symptoms worse, which can make anxiety and depression worse. When your nerves and myelin is being attacked like frayed wires there will be an impact.
I encourage everyone to talk about mental health, mental illness and get a therapist. We need to remove the stigma of this silent thing happening to so many people so it is no longer the dirty little secret but part of a normal conversation.
Straight of the NAMI website,
Prevalence of Mental Illness
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year.1
- Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.2
- Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.3
- 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.4
- 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.5
- 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.6
- 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.7
- Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.8