May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. The date was first observed in 1949 by the Mental Health America Organization to spread awareness about mental health.
Mental health, as defined by Webster’s dictionary, is “the condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental illness and by adequate adjustment especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, having positive feelings about others, and being able to meet the demands of daily life.” With this definition, it can be difficult to define who is suffering from mental illness. The truth is, every person perhaps experiences some degree of mental illness during their life.
There has been a negative stigma attached to mental illness in society, but many organisations are begin to challenge this. For instance, the Department of Veteran Affairs has been at the forefront of treating mental health issues such as PTSD with veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. Unfortunately, mental health problems have become more prevalent in society. There are many speculations about why people may suffer, including health factors where studies have shown that processed foods may be linked to depression.
Budget cuts after the great recession forced many states to make cuts in the healthcare system, including in the mental health sectors. The recent replacement of the Affordable Care Act by the House isn’t positive news for the country’s mental healthcare system, either. However, there are many affordable options for counseling and various non-profit organizations that offer mental health services.
The big debate
One of the biggest problems that the country has is the large number of people who are feigning their mental disability in order to receive Social Security Disability payments from the government. While it can be easy to detect some people who are faking mental illness, it can be more difficult to detect others when the symptoms for these disorders are easily accessible online. While there are services out there, the fact remains that some people who are affected by these issues aren’t able to access them. Another debate at the forefront of the media, is the rise in mass shootings across the nation. These have sparked conversation about if people who commit these crimes are effected by mental health issues.
The most common types of mental health issues are anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia, substance abuse and addiction. The difficulties remain in diagnosing some of these illnesses and the reality of mental health is that a lot of people can suffer from illness and not realize it. Also, mental health issues are sometimes difficult to diagnose if the person who is effected is regularly using drugs or alcohol as this could be the cause of some of the symptoms that they are experiencing. Sometimes, some individuals just work through their illness not realizing that they could be suffering in the first place. In the black community, more than any other, there is a huge stigma associated with mental illness. This social stigma tends to deeply affect black men who are more prone to suffer from depression and anxiety but are less likely seeking help because they fear societal repercussions.
Another issue going on, particularly in the US, is the debate of this country having the highest incarceration rate, housing 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. One must question how many of these prisoners are actually suffering from mental health issues, and while there have been some efforts made to reduce the high incarceration rate, it isn’t enough.
If you feel that you are suffering with mental illness, you can visit mentalhealth.gov or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you need a referral for mental health services you can call 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727). The important thing to remember is that there are people who are available to help and it may be difficult being vulnerable and talking about what is going on with you, but if you are experiencing symptoms of mental health illness reach out for help. #HereForYou