With 1 in 5 Americans struggling with mental health issues on a daily basis, it’s surprising that mental health isn’t discussed more. However, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) believes that these issues should not be stowed away, but addressed instead. Since 1949, May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. This year, the theme of the month, “#CureStigma”, raises awareness of the stigma surrounding mental illness. This month’s primary focus is on negating the stigma of mental health treatment and encouraging individuals to come forward with their struggles and seek treatment without feeling ashamed of their mental health issues.

CureStigma focuses on teaching individuals that struggling with a mental illness is normal. The stigma around mental health is a big reason why people refuse to seek treatment. Individuals may feel judged by their peers, thus encouraging them to stay silent about their struggles instead of reaching out for help. For as encouraging as people can be about seeking mental health treatment, the stigma surrounding mental health treatment can be just as discouraging. The more Americans that are educated about the severity of mental illness, the more likely it is that they will no longer view mental health treatment in such a negative light.

Along with the entire month being dedicated to mental health awareness, May 10th is recognized as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day to remind individuals that adults are not the only ones who struggle with mental illnesses. With more than 1,100 communities and 160 national organizations creating activities and hosting events nationwide to spread awareness, this month will be filled with endless opportunities to bring attention to this important health issue.

People can also struggle with a co-occurring disorder, which is when mental illness and a substance use disorder are experienced simultaneously. Just as a mental illness forms from a chemical imbalance in the brain, so do substance use disorders. Mental illness involves abnormal chemical makeup from birth, which can progress over time.  Individuals with substance use disorders have chemical makeups that are drastically altered after the consumption of a substance. Approximately 7.9 million individuals struggled with a co-occurring disorder in 2014, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Mental Health By The Numbers

NAMI aims to show society the frequency of mental health issues amongst American adults, and some of their statistics are eye-opening :

  • 6.1 million adults struggle with bipolar disorder
  • 2.4 million adults are schizophrenic
  • 16 million adults live with major depression
  • 42 million adults have an anxiety disorder
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability across the world

Adults aren’t the only ones struggling with mental illnesses. Children and teenagers make up a large percentage of individuals who have experienced some kind of mental health issue in their life. Some adolescent-based statistics include:

  • Half of all chronic mental illnesses begin by the age of 14
  • 20 percent of teenagers nationwide suffer from a mental health condition
  • 11 percent of adolescents have a mood disorder
  • 8 percent of adolescents have an anxiety disorder
  • In individuals aged 10-24, suicide is the third leading cause of death with 90 percent of suicide victims having an untreated, underlying mental illness

With statistics like these, it may be the wake-up call America needs to truly understand the far-reaching grasp that mental health disorders have on the general population.

Ways To Cure The Stigma

Education is one of the most important ways to cure the stigma around mental health. Educating children, teens and adults on different kinds of mental illnesses will help make mental health not seem like such a foreign concept. Teaching society how mental illnesses are formed is also crucial in eliminating stigma because it reminds people that suffering from mental illnesses is not a choice, but an ailment that a person must learn to manage so they can get through life.

Along with teaching society how widespread mental illnesses are, it’s important to teach individuals about the resources that are available to teach them proper coping skills to help them overcome their struggles with mental illness and substance misuse. As of 2010, there were 10,374 eligible facilities that can help treat individuals struggling with mental health issues, a substance use disorder or both.

This year, NAMI encourages individuals to take the pledge to be stigma-free and see the person in themselves, rather than their illness. In addition, individuals who want to help end mental health stigma can donate to the NAMI organization, attend one of the mental health walks that will take place across the country, or even attend the 2018 NAMI National Convention. Each of these options helps individuals struggling to come forth about their mental health and substance misuse disorders join with people looking to enter recovery or are in recovery. Individuals will have the opportunity to meet and learn from their peers, as well as contribute to the recoveries of others.

If you or a loved one struggle with a co-occurring disorder, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us to learn more about the beneficial options that could be available to you and start your journey to recovery today.