Substance abuse, addictions, poor emotional health, and mental illness take a toll on individuals, families and communities. What’s worse, the stigma associated with seeking treatment is a very real barrier in our society.
Mental health and addiction illnesses cost money and lives, just like physical illnesses that are not prevented, are left untreated, or are poorly managed.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 45.1 million adults age 18 and older had mental illness, including 11 million with serious mental illness. Two million young people (age 12 to 17) had a major depressive episode during the past year. Also in 2009, an estimated 23.5 million Americans age 12 and older needed treatment for substance abuse.
Those are all staggering numbers, but consider this:
by 2020 mental and substance use disorders will surpass all physical diseases as the major cause of disability worldwide.
May is National Mental Health Awareness month. It’s time to treat mental illness the same way we would any other illness. Could you imagine suggesting someone “snap out of” high blood pressure or diabetes? Would you turn a blind eye to a friend who had just suffered a heart attack?
“Why is mental disease the only illness you can get yelled at for having?”
It’s a great question, posed by Harrison Ford in a public service announcement from a group called No Kidding, Me Too.
It’s not an easy topic to bring up – particularly with someone you care about. We need to recognize, as a community, the need to help individuals seek appropriate treatment and help to tear down the associated stigma.
Here in Frederick County, the Mental Health Association can help – just call 211. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 301-662-2255 or 800-422-0009. Service is available in more than 150 languages.
Help is available. If you’re struggling with how talk to someone you think may be suffering from mental illness, try one of these ideas:
- I’ve been worried about you lately.
- I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently – how are you doing?
- You’ve seemed pretty down lately, I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) offers the following tips for what you can say to help – and what to avoid:
What you can say that helps:
- You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
- I understand you have a real illness and that’s what’s behind these thoughts and feelings.
- You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
- I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel but I care about you and want to help.
- When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute – whatever you can manage.
- You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
- Tell me what I can do now to help you.
- I am here for you. We will get through this together.
- It’s all in your head.
- We all go through times like this.
- You’ll be fine. Stop worrying.
- Look on the bright side.
- I can’t do anything about your situation.
- Just snap out of it.
- Stop acting crazy.
- What’s wrong with you?
- Shouldn’t you be better by now?