To achieve true health and happiness, we must all make mental health as much of a priority as physical health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized mental and neurological disease as one of the most pressing international health problems, primarily because stigma and discrimination remain strongly associated with this class of disease. Astoundingly, the stigma persists, with almost a million people taking their own lives each year. Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-to-29-year-olds.
We have no problem discussing — or seeing a doctor for — heart disease, diabetes or cancer, yet mental disorder remains shrouded in shame.
The Challenge of Making Mental Health a Priority
Mental well-being is not a priority for our government, the legal system or health insurers. And that is precisely why it must be a priority for each of us.
In our society, untreated mental illness causes economic losses and lost productivity through various channels, including homelessness, addiction and disability. For an individual battling a mental disorder, the costs can be even more dire. Untreated mental illness commonly leads to a sense of isolation, the breakdown of personal relationships, and in the most serious circumstances, even suicide.
Until each of us commits to making our own psychological well-being a priority, this critical mission isn’t likely to proliferate in our society.
Open Your Mind — and a Dialogue — Regarding Mental Health
If we explore this issue honestly, you might be surprised to find that you harbor a few misconceptions and prejudices about mental disorders yourself.
Research conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found our perceptions regarding mental disorders to be significantly lacking in both compassion and awareness. In fact, 70 percent of those who suffer from mental disorders do not seek treatment either because they aren’t aware that their symptoms warrant treatment, they’re unaware of how to seek treatment or they expect to be discriminated against as a result of seeking treatment.
If each of us agrees to educate ourselves about mental health and to engage in open conversation without judgment, we can bring the subject of emotional well-being out of the shadows.
Mental Health Matters — to Everyone
Maybe you will never suffer from a mental disorder, but this issue may affect someone you know and love. In fact, 1 out of every 20 U.S. adults will experience depression this year. So even if it’s not you, a friend or family member may well face this struggle.
If you learn to recognize the signs of psychological illness, you could make a difference in someone’s life.
You know how to have a healthy body: exercise, eat right, get plenty of sleep and practice preventive care strategies. So why not learn how to have a healthy mind? The University of Michigan published a simple Top 10 list for improving mental health. For a deeper dive into mental health education, the CDC offers a comprehensive list of free publications, including their informative Community Guide on Mental Health. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers an interactive resource guide for finding emotional and behavioral health treatment resources in your community.
When we make overall health and well-being a priority, we all stand to benefit from the outcome. In his new book, Bulletproof, off-road racer and mental health advocate Justin Peck describes his journey with depression and bipolar disorder. Pick up your copy of this engaging story today to learn more about the importance of fostering sound emotional health.