According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the issue of mental health has never dominated our society in such a way before. Indeed, the National Health Interview Survey discovered that more than 8.3 million Americans, or approximately 3.4 per cent of the population, are suffering from serious psychological distress and extreme feelings of sadness and worthlessness – a stark reminder that support isn’t always as forthcoming as we’d like it to be. While there are no easy answers or hard and fast rules when it comes to the issue of mental health, it is evident that something must be done. Where can we start?
What is mental illness?
If we’re to properly address the problems that surround mental health, it’s important for people to understand the kinds of issues that their friends, neighbors, or family members might be experiencing on a daily basis. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate; it can affect children, young people, adults, and the elderly, as well as professionals, so-called millennials, and those with seemingly perfect lives. Mental health issues could come to any one of us, and at any time – so why are we struggling to identify and treat so many of these occurrences? There are more than 200 diagnosable mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, stress-related illness, anger issues, schizophrenia, eating disorders, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, and social withdrawal. While each disorder will exhibit its own signs and symptoms, ranging from mild to acute, each one has the ability to cripple a person – and you won’t always be able to tell that they’re suffering at all.
Why are these kinds of mental health issues becoming more prevalent?
It’s tempting to blame a lack of reputable studies on the rise in mental health disorders; perhaps they’re no more prevalent than they’ve ever been, but have simply been talked about more in recent years. It’s certainly a train of thought that many have sought to follow. However, this myth has been debunked by a plethora of studies spanning decades. Mental health disorders are indeed on the rise. It seems as though there is no easy answer to the question of why such disorders are on the rise, though work-related stresses, pressures associated with modern life, and the rise of technology dependence must shoulder some of the blame. Despite the prevalence of mental health issues, stigma is also still rife; so many of those suffering are afraid to admit their issues, or to seek help for fear or being ridiculed or ostracized.
It’s safe to say that health systems are overwhelmed, and that current levels of support for those with mental health issues are inadequate at best. Why else would support be dwindling? The CDC survey discovered that 10% of those experiencing a mental health disorder had experienced a delay in treatment, while almost 10% had been unable to access the appropriate care due to a lack of medical insurance. There is also a well-documented shortage of health professionals across the US. It stands to reason, then, that part of the problem could be the lack of a solution.
Mental health and young people
The figures associated with child and teenage mental health are perhaps the most startling of all; it is estimated that in excess of 15 million young people are suffering or have suffered with a mental health disorder of some kind. As with many other diagnoses of mental health issues, the reasons behind such a spike are unclear. What can be ascertained is that prolonged use of technology, particularly social media sites, is having a detrimental effect on our nation’s young. The peer pressure, unrealistic expectations, and cyber bullying often found across such sites can lead to feelings of isolation and upset that will often later manifest as mental illness.
As the parent of a child exhibiting symptoms of a mental health disorder, you’re no doubt beside yourself with worry; help can be difficult to access, and you may feel as though you’re facing these issues alone. However, it’s important to remain calm, and to remember that increasing awareness is leading to better care for young people slowly but surely. The symptoms of a mental health disorder can be difficult to spot but may include aggressive or irritable behavior, lack of concentration at school, difficulty sleeping, poor grades or performance at a sport or hobby, and a decreasing appetite. Of course, teenagers are stereotypically moody and withdrawn. As a parent, you should be able to spot when this kind of behavior is manifesting as something more serious. Reach out to your child’s school, or request an appointment with their physician at the earliest opportunity. You may also wish to explore the kinds of care on offer from specialist facilities such as Newport Academy. Such a place exists to provide support and nurture to teens affected by an array of mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, addiction, and substance abuse. You will find such care and guidance both reassuring and uplifting for the whole family.
There have been countless studies analyzing the effects of mental health disorders on young people and adults across America, dating back to the 1930s and beyond; the issues associated with mental health are certainly nothing new. However, these kinds of disorders are on the rise, and markedly so. Surveys and research have been quick to point out that Americans have never been so anxious, depressed, or unsettled before, and yet the kind of care available is still woefully lacking. It is essential that the stereotypes associated with mental illness are addressed and banished, and that mental health screenings become a routine element of the health care system. If you’ve ever suffered, or continue to suffer with a mental health disorder, you must realize that you’re not alone; mental wellbeing is something that we must all make a priority.