In the United States, more than 43 million adults live with mental illness. That’s about one in every five. The percentages dramatically increase in certain social demographics such as the homeless and prisoners.
May is designated as Mental Health Month to raise awareness about the numerous conditions that fall under the mental health umbrella. The term mental health describes “emotional, psychological and social well-being” but factors contributing to mental health include biological: genes and brain chemistry, life experiences: trauma and abuse, and family history (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services).
Unlike other conditions, mental health has a heavy stigma and a significant amount of myths surrounding it. Some common misconceptions are:
People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable. In reality, they have no greater predisposition to violence than others and only 3-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.
People with mental illnesses can get rid of them if they try hard enough. The truth is that many factors contribute to mental health, including biology and family history.
A myth surrounding the treatment of people with mental illness is that prevention is impossible. However, especially for children, promoting social-emotional well-being can improve their mental state later in life.
Some of the most common mental illnesses include:
- ADHD—significant problems with attention, hyperactivity, or acting impulsively
- Anxiety Disorders—overwhelming anxiety that repeatedly impacts life
- Autism Spectrum Disorder—developmental disorder that makes communicating difficult
- Bipolar Disorder—dramatic highs and lows in mood, energy and ability to think and focus
- Borderline Personality Disorder—severe unstable mood swings, poor self-image
- Depression—serious mental health that is more than just sadness
- Dissociative Disorders—spectrum of disorders that affect memory and self-perception
- Eating Disorders—preoccupation with food and weight that affects other aspects of life
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder—unwanted irrational thoughts and urges to do certain actions
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder—the result of a traumatic experience like military combat or an accident
- Schizophrenia—loss of touch with reality in the form of hallucinations and delusions
Medical IDs can be an important tool for people with certain mental illnesses, especially for those who might have trouble communicating, or who may lose touch with reality during an emergency situation. Some people may even opt for ID bracelets with safety clasps so that the person wearing it cannot remove it. For veterans diagnosed with PTSD, the VA covers medical IDs at no charge.
Mental health is an issue that affects everyone. During May, you can participate in raising awareness by taking the stigmafree pledge, sharing information about mental illness to your network, or participating in your community.
Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health.gov