If you’re struggling with a mental health condition, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness, and these numbers aren’t improving. Particularly among teens and young adults age 18-25.
Author Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, states in her book iGen:
“The rate of individuals reporting symptoms consistent with major depression in the last 12 months increased 52 percent in adolescents from 2005 to 2017, and 63 percent in young adults age 18 to 25 from 2009 to 2017. And the rate of young adults with suicidal thoughts or other suicide-related outcomes increased a staggering 47 percent from 2008 to 2017.”
Recent studies have shown that more social media use is associated with increased reported symptoms of social anxiety, social isolation, and feelings of loneliness. Despite all of the “friends” they have on social media, adolescents and young adults have never felt lonelier.
Mental health facts
These statistics provided by the National Council For Mental Health help us understand the mental health challenges we’re facing:
- 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use in the past year, with pandemic-related stress playing a role.
- One in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
- Half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
- Depression alone costs the U.S. approximately $210.5 billion annually.
- The average delay between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 in the U.S. and the 10th leading cause overall in America.
- Many people suffer from multiple mental disorders at a given time. In particular, depressive illnesses tend to co-occur with substance abuse and anxiety disorders.
- More than 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosed mental illness.
- Transgender adults are nearly 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
- The most common mental illnesses in the U.S. are anxiety disorders, which affect 40 million adults (18.1% of the population).
Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe, at this time, that these numbers and trends will reverse themselves anytime soon.
Mental health stigma
The word “stigma” is a Greek word that has been defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” According to a CBS News poll, nine out of ten Americans think there is at least some stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness in society today, with the majority of those polled saying they personally know someone who has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
Upon learning that someone they know has been diagnosed with a mental illness, fears and biases can come to the surface for many people. For example, some individuals believe that a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder can be “unstable” or “dangerous,” without any factual evidence to support their belief.
Film and television have been identified as contributors to the stigma associated with mental illness. Perpetrators of violent crime are often portrayed as being mentally ill, but studies show that people with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than the perpetrator, according to NCBI.
Off-the-cuff statements such as “Are you crazy?” or “He has a screw loose” are representative of the lack of awareness and stigma concerning mental illness. Celebrities disclosing their own struggles with mental health have been met with approval by the public, with four out of five Americans believing it helps reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has created a campaign called StigmaFree. They recommend three steps for people to take to become stigma-free.
- Educate yourself and others. Knowing the facts concerning mental illness can help you educate others and dispel false ideas about mental health conditions.
- See the person, not the condition. NAMI relates that each person living with a mental health disorder has their own story, path, and journey. Getting to know them benefits both you and them as you begin to understand what they’re going through.
- Take action. Push for better legislation and policies to improve lives for everyone. Lend your support and show that this cause is important to you.
Through StigmaFree, NAMI is attempting to have thousands of people across the country join their “movement” to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Homelessness and mental illness
Most researchers agree that the link between homelessness and mental health is a complicated, two-way relationship. “Which came first...” could be an apt way to describe it.
If you have had much interaction with the homeless, you may have noticed that many struggle with mental illness. Studies have shown that at least 25% of homeless people are struggling with a mental disorder. Are they homeless because of their mental illness, or are they mentally ill because they are homeless?
It can happen either way.
Someone with a mental illness may find it increasingly difficult to perform their job duties or interact acceptably with co-workers, which could result in their termination. This can lead to a downward spiral financially, ultimately ending in homelessness.
Conversely, the stress and strain of being homeless can lead to higher levels of psychiatric distress, increase the incidence of alcohol abuse, and create a no-win situation for the individual. In addition, the increased risk of being the victim of a crime and more frequent encounters with the police and the courts can also exacerbate the mental health problems a homeless individual suffers from.
Mental health assistance
Mental illness, just like any other ailment, often manifests itself suddenly and is disabling for an individual and their family and friends. If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with someone who can help.
Having grown up in upstate New York, Bob Phillips spent over 15 years in the financial services world and has been making freelance writing contributions to blogs and websites since 2007. He resides in North Texas with his wife and Doberman puppy.
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