Mental illness is more prevalent in North America than cancer or diabetes, and is the leading cause of adult disability. Yet fears and misconceptions about mental health issues abound, fueling a social stigma not associated with most physical disease.
A study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHA) has revealed some startling statistics on the state of Americans’ mental health. The survey of 67,Guest Posting000 adults across the nation found mental illness is more common than diabetes, cancer or heart disease, with 1 in 5 of them experiencing some form of mental illness in the past year. Mental illness is the leading cause of adult disability in North America.
Mental illness is defined as any condition or disease affecting the brain that influences thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These changes in thinking and mood often impact the way a person relates to others and to his or her surroundings. Women, the unemployed and young adults are the most prone to mental illness, although it affects people of all backgrounds. The most widespread forms of mental illness include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Other common mental illnesses include obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, and personality disorders such as borderline personality or antisocial personality. Many mental health experts include addiction on this list.
Mental illnesses are caused by a variety of interrelated factors including:
1) genetics – a tendency towards mental illness tends to run in families
2) biology – such as imbalances in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters
3) psychological trauma – such as serious abuse and/or neglect
4) life stressors – such as a serious loss or illness or a dysfunctional family life.
Mental illnesses are not indications of character weakness or personal failure any more than cancer or diabetes are, and those affected can not simply “pull up their socks” and talk themselves out of it. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge about and the social stigma attached to mental illness keep many sufferers from getting the help they need. Less than 40% of people identified with mental illness received mental health services.
Encouragingly, great strides have been taken in the mental health field, both in the psychotropic medication and in psychotherapy. Roughly 8 in 10 people with mental illness are now able to function normally with appropriate treatment. The history books are full of people who became famous and successful despite mental illness, including Vincent Van Gogh, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Kurt Cobain.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the SAMHA statistics, antipsychotic medications (used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and non-psychotic disorders such as Tourette syndrome, anxiety and autism) are the top-selling class of medications in the US. Depression medication is also a top-seller, particularly the newer SSRI antidepressants, or serotonin specific reuptake inhibitors.
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common with a number of mental illnesses. Alarmingly, almost 8½ million of those SAMHA surveyed had contemplated suicide, over 2 million had made suicide plans, and 1 million had made actual suicide attempts. If you or someone close to you has signs or symptoms of a mental illness, see your doctor or a mental health pro