Everyone has a level of mental health, just as everyone has physical health. The state of one’s health can change over time, and like the body, the mind can become unwell. Unfortunately, mental illness is often shrouded behind a black cloud of ignorance, prejudice, and fear.
It is important, as a society, to move away from the victimization of those suffering from mental illness and to gain a better understanding of such diseases. Breaking the stigma starts with education. Here’s a look at mental illness that might start helping to shatter those misconceptions.
Is mental illness that common?
Though it isn’t something people talk about frequently, mental illness is very common in both men and women. In fact, mental health problems are more commonplace than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25% of US adults are diagnosed with a mental disorder each year. Additionally, children may also suffer from mental illnesses, as it does not discriminate against gender, race, or age.
There isn’t just a single form of mental illness – there are a number of disorders that can range in severity. Mental health issues often involve mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. However, there are many other types of mental health issues including anxiety disorders, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), schizophrenia, social phobias, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism. Personality disorders also fall into the realm of mental health issues.
Mental illness can affect a person at any age, from any cultural background, and within any economic class. It does not care whether one has graduated high school or has a PhD. It can affect both men and woman; boys and girls, but there are certain conditions that tend to occur more often in females, such as eating disorders, and children, such as ADHD.
How is mental illness treated?
Like any chronic disease or illness, mental illness requires ongoing, regular treatment. Over the past few decades, big strides in treating mental health issues have been made, and as a result, many conditions are effectively treated with one, or a combination of, medication, psychotherapy, group therapy, day treatments, hospitalization, and other more specific therapies such as behavior modification and cognitive-behavior therapy.
Modern mental health professionals have also begun turning to alternative treatments such as water therapy, biofeedback, massage, art therapy, play therapy, music therapy, and hypnotherapy. Some doctors may also use vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is fairly new.
The most common method of treating mental illness is through medication, usually combined with regular visits to a therapist. Today, there are many different types of drugs used to treat mental illness including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, stimulants, anti-psychotics, and anti-anxiety medications. Some drugs are used to treat more than one condition, such as Seroquel, which is commonly used to treat the symptoms of both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It can also be combined with other medications to treat major depressive disorder.
While drugs cannot cure mental illness, they can help to control many of the troubling and debilitating symptoms, which helps to enable those suffering from such disorders to lead a more normal life.
What’s this about a stigma against mental illness?
Despite the fact that mental illness is so widespread, there is still a stigma attached to it that makes it harder for those with mental illnesses to lead a normal life. People often become isolated, have trouble maintaining a job, and may even see a decline in their physical health. Because of the stigma, sufferers are often reluctant to seek help when they need it most, which makes recovery even longer and harder than it has to be.
A common misconception about those with mental health problems is that they are “crazy” – and this stereotype can be quite damaging and leads to fear. Humans are often afraid of what they do not understand, and this can lead to discrimination against those with a mental disorder.
Often, those suffering from mental illness say that the discrimination they suffer in both work and social situations can be an even bigger burden than the disease itself. Societal attitudes toward ethnicity, sexuality, and other issues have improved over the years; however, the discrimination against people with mental illness is still widespread. In fact, nine out of ten people with a mental illness have reported some type of discrimination because of it.
Those with mental illness should not be victimized; they should be supported and loved. There are lots of ways that people can help break the stigmatization of those with mental health issues. The way people interact with those with mental health problems can make a huge difference – just remember that mental illness isn’t contagious and that these individuals are just people like everyone else. The public should understand that mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of.