Your Healthy Lifestyle

Mental Health - What's Being Done 
- Part 1

Mental Health and Mental Illness

Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability in the United States, yet only 7% of all healthcare expenditures are designated for mental health disorders. Many adults may struggle their entire life with depression, anxiety, or other disturbances in their mental health. Their illness will cause them problems in their family, on their job, and with the people they care about. It can rob them of income, security, and the successes that would have been theirs if they had gotten help early in their illness. Even into the 1900's a person who was stricken with a mental illness, was considered to be insane, incompetent, deranged, and could spend their life in a mental institution, locked away and neglected, often in dismal and horrendous conditions. Without community understanding of mental illness and acceptance of those living with mental illness, people will continue to avoid talking about mental health, and will avoid seeking help.

Nearly one-fourth of the elderly who are labeled as senile actually suffer some form of mental illness that can be effectively treated. On any given night, more than 600,000 people are homeless in the United States, of which one-third have a serious mental illness. 

Approximately 12 million children under the age of 18 suffer from mental disorders such as autism, depression, and hyperactivity. 

One in five adults will experience a mental disorder in the course of a year. 

These mental health statistics are very worrying. So what is being done, and what can be done, to alleviate these mental health statistics?

Local radio and television can broadcast public service announcements on mental health topics (e.g., depression, anxiety, chemical dependency, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Such public service announcements inform people of symptoms and treatment options and debunk totally the still fairly common belief that experiencing mental illness is inherently shameful. 

Churches, social service agencies, and consumer-led services such as independent living centers need to have the resources to enable them to advocate for individuals with mental illness. 

Special emphasis should be placed on elderly individuals' higher risk of concurrent mental illness and physical disability. Greater resources should be allocated for both treating mental health issues in the elderly, and educating the public at large on what to look out for in their elderly relatives, in terms of signs that a mental health issue may be at play.

There needs to be a more integrated approach to the treatment of mental illness and addictive disorders. Substance abuse and mental illness all too often go hand in hand, and this fact is often overlooked by mental health agencies and addiction treatment agencies alike. Fifty-one percent of those with one or more lifetime mental disorders also have a lifetime history of at least one substance abuse disorder.

The stigma surrounding mental health and addiction needs to be dispersed, because stigma is a huge problem for people living with mental illness and/or addiction. 

Children who develop depression often have a family history of the illness, many times a parent who had depression at an early age. It is therefore important that community and government agencies be given the resources to identify and limit the potential for mental illness in children.

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