Mental Health/Illness – Removing Stigma

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:

  • Cancer
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • 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.
  • 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

https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers

https://www.newsweek.com/nearly-1-5-americans-suffer-mental-illness-each-year-230608

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_disorder

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/issues/state-mental-health-america

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/anxiety_and_physical_illness

https://mymsaa.org/msinformation/symptoms/anxiety/

https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Emotional-Changes

Tips to Ease Anxiety, an Often Overlooked Effect of MS

 

Mental Health – In The Beginning

This week, as I wean off one anti-depressant so I can start another I find myself thinking about mental health more.

This is a hard subject for me, which if you’ve read my other posts that are full of personal information, you’re probably wondering why.

This will be my next series of posts, there is far too much to tackle to fit it all into one blog post.

I’ll start by sharing that one of my close friends completed suicide the summer before my freshman year of high school. It made know sense to me, we talked nearly every day on the phone that summer. He was in the ICU for some time before finally passing. While his pain was gone, my pain and confusion was just ramping up.

That summer I had also been passing out and having seizures which required a lot of tested and many medical appointments. So here I am, a 13 year old girl, dealing with a death and possibility of a pace maker in the same summer before entering my fist year of high school. One of these things is stressful enough, I’m sure you can imagine the toll three of them plus pubescent hormones had.

I remember one day at school was too much for me. I started hyperventilating, I cannot remember if I actually passed out but I do know that EMTs came to my school and I was lying of the ground in front of my locker with an defibrillator device attached to my chest.

That is when we had to tell everyone that if I pass out there were specific steps to take to bring me back and not to call 911. Embarrassed and traumatized from this mortifying event I found a place to lay every time I got dizzy or anxious after that.

Next post I’ll discuss stigma with mental health.

Frustrated Youths

The media reports on suicides more now than ever before. Bullying from social media and in person seems to be rising. Mean kids have always been around though, teen suicide is not new. As far back as the Salem Witch Trials teens have played “mean girls”, accusing people they didn’t like of being a witch so that they must go on trial.

The summer before my freshman year in high school one of my closest male friends took his own life by jumping off a bridge into a large, rough river. He probably didn’t expect to be in a coma prior to finally succumbing to his choice, but his choice impacted many people. That’s what people who choose to end their lives don’t realize. Their suffering may end, but they leave behind a life time of memories and questions for those who care for them. It’s been more than 20 years and I still think about him around his birthday and the month he took his life every single year. Until I started therapy a couple of years ago I wasn’t entirely sure why I was so angry every year around these times. I never got to say good bye, I never got closure, with the help of my therapist I was able to resolve my anger and now I can think of him fondly when he comes to mind.

I have two boys, I am pretty sure they are happy kids. When I talk to them they tell me the good things in life, if they are having issues with peers we brainstorm on how we can resolve the conflicts or move past it. I do not want either of my kids to be the next statistic. It terrifies me every time I see another kid on the news who couldn’t handle it and completed suicide.

According to kidshealth.org “Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after accidents and homicide. It’s also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide.”

This is heart breaking and should be to every parent out there. We need to talk to our kids. Pry if you must, this is our future generation and what kind of world will we have if the good kids, sensitive kids all disappear and are left mostly with the bullies? Mental health for everyone is important, no one should feel shame for having to work with a professional, there are so many ways of getting help now that you don’t even need to go into an office to talk to someone.

This hotline should be like poison control number on the magnet of parent’s fridges. You probably won’t need it, but it’s there just in case. 1-800-273-8255, if you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide or self harm.

Stats from the CDC:

  • Boys are 4 times more likely to die from suicide than girls.
  • Girls are more likely to attempt suicide than boys.
  • Guns are used in more than half of youth suicides.

Some of the leading causes of suicides in youth:

  • Changes in their families, such as divorce or moving to a new town
  • Changes in friendships
  • Problems in school
  • Other losses

Youth at higher risk of suicide:

  • One or more mental or substance abuse problems
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Undesirable life events or recent losses, such as the death of a parent
  • Family history of mental or substance abuse problems
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical, sexual, or verbal or emotional abuse
  • Past suicide attempt
  • Gun in the home
  • Imprisonment
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as from family or peers, in the news, or in fiction stories

Warning Signs that can also look like depression:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Acting-out behaviors and running away
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Neglecting one’s personal appearance
  • Unnecessary risk-taking
  • Obsession with death and dying
  • More physical complaints often linked to emotional distress, such as stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Loss of interest in school or schoolwork
  • Feeling bored
  • Problems focusing
  • Feeling he or she wants to die
  • Lack of response to praise
  • Says “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide.”
  • Gives verbal hints, such as “I won’t be a problem much longer,” or “If anything happens to me, I want you to know ….”
  • Gives away favorite possessions or throws away important belongings
  • Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  • May express weird thoughts
  • Writes 1 or more suicide notes

Sources:

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=P02584

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/suicide.html

https://www.aacap.org/aacap/families_and_youth/facts_for_families/fff-guide/teen-suicide-010.aspx

https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/teensuicide/

https://www.speakingofsuicide.com/2017/09/21/suicide-language/