10 Reasons Why You Should
Take Mental Illness Seriously
By Amy Russel
Mental health has long been stigmatized. For centuries, doctors have prioritized physical well-being above mental or emotional well-being, dismissing those with mental health issues as untreatable or simply ‘hysterical.’ Mental illness has also been commonly attributed to personal weakness, thus denying vulnerable individuals the essential support they need.
As society becomes more aware of the nature and negative impact of mental illness, it’s becoming clearer that mental health is just as important as the individual’s physical well-being. The most common mental illnesses include the following:
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
- Bipolar Disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders
Mental illness impacts every part of your life. It can increase your risk for physical diseases and can interfere with your relationships, your work, and your happiness. It also has a profound impact on your family members and loved ones.
Fortunately, as society becomes more aware of the forms and aspects of mental illness, it’s also developing better ways to address it. If you or your loved one are suffering from mental illness, there are more resources than ever to help. Whether you choose to talk to a loved one, receive counseling, or consult a psychiatrist, the first step to improving your mental health is recognizing it and reaching out to others.
Here are 10 reasons why you should take mental health seriously:
1. Mental Health and Physical Health Go Hand in Hand
The World Health Organization defines health as “A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This differs from the conventional Western approach to health, which seeks to treat the visible symptoms of physical disease.
Mental and social well-being, however, have a profound impact on physical health, and vice versa. Individuals with chronic physical health issues are twice as likely to develop issues with mental health. Conversely, individuals who suffer from serious mental illnesses are very likely to die from preventable physical health issues, like infections.
Beyond this, individuals who suffer from substance abuse are much more likely to suffer from a mental illness alongside it. While it’s relatively clear how substance addiction or eating disorders could result in diminished physical well-being, depression and anxiety can also cause dangerous changes in health or eating habits that’ll negatively impact overall health.
2. Impacts Your Friends and Family
As anyone who has seen a family member suffer from mental illness knows that the impact of mental illness doesn’t stop with you. Many adults have suffered from mental disorders, and many more have had a loved one who has. Seeing a loved one suffering is extremely painful, and many factors can make the situation even more difficult.
If you suffer from mental illness, it’s important to communicate clearly with your friends and family so that they can better support you. Similarly, if you suspect one of your friends or family is suffering from a mental illness, it's just as vital for you to understand and be there for them.
Western society has become increasingly individualistic, isolating its most vulnerable members. Showing support to our loved ones in the face of mental illness can help lessen their burden and help destigmatize mental health.
3. Mental Illness is Common
In the United States, approximately one-fifth of the adult population suffers from some kind of mental disorder, with about four percent living with a serious mental illness. Anxiety affects one-fifth of adults, and around seven percent of the country suffer from serious depression. Rather than a rare abnormality, mental illness is a frequent factor in life.
It’s highly likely that someone you know struggles from mental illness, even if you don’t recognize it. It’s important for individuals suffering from mental disorders to recognize that they’re not alone. Connecting with others around them who have experience facing mental health issues can help them better address their own issues.
4. Mental Illness Heavily Impacts Young People
Up to 20% of adolescents suffer from some kind of mental illness any given year. Traumatic experiences at an early age can result in mental health consequences at later ages, and the most serious mental illnesses are hereditary.
Around 50% of serious mental illnesses develop by the age of 14, and 75% become evident by age 25. This, combined with an increasing anxiety-inducing world, has a major impact on youth health worldwide.
Adolescents can also struggle with caring for parents who have mental illnesses, some of which may be undiagnosed or undiagnosed. Suicide is a major cause of death among children and young adults, making mental health a major priority for young people.
Furthermore, by recognizing the issues that individuals have to deal with in childhood, health care practitioners can better address mental and physical health concerns that’ll develop later in life.
5. Mental Illness is Sometimes Invisible
Think of your family, friends, and colleagues. Do you know anyone in these groups suffering from mental health issues? If they do, how would you be able to tell?
There are some warning signs you may recognize in more serious cases, but it’s possible that the person who sits next to you at work is suffering from debilitating depression and you don’t even know it.
Physical illnesses or disabilities are easy to recognize, so it’s easier to treat than mental illnesses. In fact, it may even be difficult for an individual to recognize that they’re suffering from a mental health issue. Frequent absences can be attributed to physical health issues, and a legitimate health concern can be dismissed or overlooked.
If you suffer from mental health issues, you may feel completely alone. This is because society looks down on those with mental illnesses. As a result, people who struggle with mental health issues tend to hide those issues from others so as not to be treated differently or excluded.
Mental illness may not have any evident or external symptoms, meaning that it’s harder to diagnose and treat. Between 50% and 90% of people with mental disorders or substance abuse problems are undiagnosed.
The best solution for this is to make mental illness more visible by allowing people to speak openly about their health concerns and making mental health a greater priority for members of the healthcare profession.
6. Impacts Your Work
Everyone knows the dreaded feeling of going to work unmotivated, especially if the pandemic has had you working from home. If you feel unmotivated, anxious, or depressed, your work suffers. You may find yourself in a vicious cycle, where how you feel impacts the work you do, and you want to do it less and less. This can even happen if your work is a great source of stability and joy for you!
The US loses an estimated USD$193 billion in earnings each year as many mistake mental health issues for physical health issues. In fact, in cases where mental illnesses are recognized and treated, medical expenditures tend to go down significantly.
A chronic, untreated mental illness can cause you to miss a significant amount of work or even have trouble finding a job. Indeed, 37% of young adults suffering from a mental illness cannot complete high school.
In a society where our financial, physical, and emotional well-being, not to mention our social circle, depends so much on our work, having a mental illness on the side can be a very serious issue.
7. It is Stigmatized
Part of society’s current shortcomings in properly addressing mental illness comes from its long history of stigmatizing it.
People suffering from mental illnesses were commonly ostracized, some even imprisoned or punished for a disorder beyond their control. Because Western medicine has prioritized physical well-being over mental and emotional well-being, there’s considerably less research exploring the causes, risk factors, and treatments for mental disorders than there is for physical illnesses.
This lack has translated into many people suffering from mental illness being undiagnosed or improperly diagnosed, further exacerbating the toll of mental illness.
In order to develop healthier, more holistic ways to treat mental illness, we have to destigmatize it and recognize mental health as a legitimate health concern.
8. It is Hereditary
One key aspect of mental health illnesses is that they can be hereditary. For instance, having an alcoholic father could mean that you also carry the gene for alcoholism, which may affect your family’s future happiness.
This emphasizes how serious a problem mental illness is, but it also shows that it should be treated with equal consideration as a hereditary physical disorder.
Disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder seem to have commonalities on a biological level and may be passed down from parent to child.
Since research is still inconclusive, the clearest sign is that having a mental illness in your family history may increase your own risk of developing a mental illness.
9. It Can Be Deadly
As mentioned before, a large number of individuals suffering from serious mental illnesses die prematurely due toentirely preventable health complications. An even greater danger for those suffering from chronic mental illness, however, is suicide.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with nearly 50 000 people dying by suicide in 2018, which are still increasing annually. For every death by suicide, there are approximately 25 suicide attempts that don’t end in death. The concern is particularly acute for children and young adults.
Suicide is a more common cause of death for adolescents than cancer, heart disease, respiratory illness, and a number of other diseases combined. 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental illness.
Increasingly, there’s also a concern of violence for those with mental health issues that can inflict upon others, with the rise of shootings in schools and other public spaces.
10. Understanding is the First Step to Treatment
The lack of solutions for mental health issues is compounded by how long it has been deemed unimportant. Treating mental illnesses on par with physical illnesses will help doctors and researchers develop better, more effective treatments. It’ll also help those with mental illnesses feel less like they’re weak, broken, and more like they have the potential to strive for regular, rewarding life.
How can you recognize if you or a loved one suffer from mental health issues? Common symptoms include the following:
- Feeling particularly sad or anxious, especially without reason or for extended periods of time
- Inability to focus or confused, chaotic thought patterns
- Extreme changes in mood
- Fatigue or insomnia, general changes in sleep patterns
- Withdrawal from friends, hobbies, or social activities
- Detachment from reality or paranoia
- Violence or excessive aggression
- Extreme changes in sex drive or eating patterns
- Inability to cope with day to day issues and responsibilities
- Suicidal thoughts
If you or a loved one is showing signs of a serious mental illness, it’s essential to contact a qualified health care professional. They can guide you and help determine how to treat whatever condition you’re struggling with.
If you’re experiencing violent or suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately:
- Call 911 or other emergency services
- Call your mental health specialist or primary health care provider
- Reach out to a loved one or spiritual leader
- Call a suicide hotline. In the United States, that number is 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Many suicide hotlines also have webchat alternatives
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help or Offer Support
Mental health is a serious issue in the United States and around the world. But in order to be able to address it properly and to care for the well-being of society’s most vulnerable members, we need to be able to better recognize, diagnose, and treat mental illness in ourselves, our friends, our family members, and coworkers.
Also, by disseminating proper information of mental health, such as the different symptoms associated with it, people can immediately find help to a health professional, without the feeling of being ashamed. This way, any issues that are a product of mental health concern are addressed at the early stage.
By building more resources for individuals suffering from mental illnesses, society can provide more support for them, increasing the chance for these individuals to live a healthy, productive life, with less risk of occurrences of self-harm or violence.
Amy Russel is a full-time blogger who regularly uploads articles on self-improvement and parenting on her blog. Amy also loves to submit guest posts to other websites so she can reach more audience.