In recent years, the topic of mental health has risen to the top of the public’s consciousness. Part of the reason for this attention spike is the ever-digital nature of our lives and the questions this raises about how technology impacts the way we relate to the world around us. And while smartphones are contributing to the problem, social platforms have also empowered people with mental health issues to vocalize their experiences and #StopTheStigma.
Explanations aside, the attention is warranted. Mental health has historically been treated much differently than physical health, a disparity that often materializes as negative societal perceptions or even discrimination in health coverage, making it difficult for people to afford or access proper care. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), roughly 45 million U.S. adults live with a mental illness, but only half will receive treatment.
The stigma surrounding mental illness also makes one third of Americans embarrassed to even talk about it, according to a One Medical and Ipsos survey. The more we talk about it however, the less taboo it becomes, and the more help people will seek and receive.
Mental Health Awareness Month & The Scope of Mental Illness
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is a wonderful opportunity to spark and continue this powerful conversation. Before we can work to incite change, it’s important to fully grasp the scope of the problem. According to the One Medical survey, 69% of respondents say, “at least one mental health issue affects their well-being.”
Other studies further prove how common the issue is. Research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shows approximately 1 out of every 5 Americans suffers from mental illness each year, and a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology revealed that a staggering 80% of people will experience at least one episode of mental illness in their lifetime.
The most common mental health issue adults experience is an anxiety disorder, affecting nearly 18% of the U.S. population.
Children's Mental Health: The Facts
Mental health issues don’t discriminate based on age, either. In fact, mental health disorders are very common among children and adolescents. According to the NIMH, 50% of all lifetime cases begin by the age of 14. 75% begin by the age of 24.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the most common mental health issues among youth are:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Nearly 6.4 million children ages 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. The average age of an ADHD diagnosis is 7, though symptoms may appear as early as 3 years old. And over the past 8 years, there’s been a 42% increase in ADHD diagnoses.
Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents include generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress, social anxiety, and OCD and afflict an estimated 32% of children ages 13 to 18.
Depression and anxiety are comorbid, meaning they are often present at the same time. 13% of 12 to 17-year-olds experience some type of depression, which can include depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder.
Like adults, a large majority of children with diagnosable anxiety and depression are not getting treatment.
Most children understand the meaning of “suicide” by the third grade, and according to the NIMH, it’s the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.
According to NAMI, 90% of those who have died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.
Tips For Getting Involved
The key to improving the state of mental health across the country is awareness, education, and support. At Jumo Health, we’re dedicated to producing content and additional resources on these topics on a regular basis to provide accessible education and awareness.
Here are a few ways you can get involved this Mental Health Awareness Month.
May 1st through the 8th is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week specifically, and if we address the health of our children, we can ensure they get the treatment they need now and set a foundation for a fulfilling life that’s not defined solely by their diagnosis.
If you know of or have a child that has been diagnosed with a mental health, mood, or behavior disorder, there are a wealth of resources to help you and other parents navigate the kinds of conversations and questions you will have. One of the most helpful things for anyone dealing with a diagnosis is knowing they aren’t alone, which is why we created the In My Words podcast. Releasing this month is a 3-part episode where a young woman named Gianna shares her story and experience with depression, anxiety, and a suicide attempt. Gianna and the other special guests featured in the episode, including a psychiatrist from Stanford and a program manager from Bring Change 2 Mind, hope to inspire others to get the help they need and combat cultural misinformation.
Also on Jumo Health are discussion guides for parents designed to help navigate the conversation with a doctor after a diagnosis, and our signature comic books featuring the Medikidz superheroes are available online as digital comics and audiobooks to help children further understand their own conditions.
The JED Foundation is another wonderful organization whose mission is to empower today’s youth to become emotionally healthy adults. They have a wealth of peer-reviewed resources to help educate teens, young adults, families, and schools on mental health, specific conditions, and how to give or seek help.
Mental health comes with a harmful stigma that generates feelings of shame in those who deal with these issues, making them afraid to seek help. Because of this stigma, most Americans still don’t understand mental health fully — and because they don’t understand it, the stigma persists.
They key is to stay informed and seek out the facts — about the conditions, the symptoms, and how to get help if you’re worried about someone, or worried about yourself. For teens and young adults, JED’s mental health resources can help here, too, with their comprehensive information on how to proceed under specific circumstances, learning how to cultivate emotional well-being, and high-level overviews of various conditions.
Other reputable resources include MentalHealth.gov, the National Institutes of Mental Health, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Staying informed and treating mental health as just as important as and indivisible from physical health will fight this stigma and ensure that people get the treatment they need.
Have the Conversations
The more we learn about mental illness, the more we’ll know how to talk about it. This means knowing which words to use and avoid, and being able to cultivate a healthy, accurate, and supportive cultural conversation.
There are a number of initiatives to help people facilitate these kinds of conversations and to teach us all how to approach the topic in the right way. Mental Health America, for example, has resources for how to start the conversation, including a letter template, along with how to broach the topic with parents, what to do if someone talks to you about their mental health, and what you can expect to come out of this kind of dialogue.
Stop the Stigma
Staying informed and keeping the conversation going are two vital pieces of the #StopTheStigma puzzle. You might also consider holding or participating in a local fundraising event, or getting involved with worthwhile organizations like the JED Foundation and Bring Change 2 Mind, who are always working hard toward creating an emotionally healthy future.
Another way to work toward this ever-important goal is to become an advocate. Your voice carries weight, and there are a number of ways to use it to advocate for mental health awareness, from speaking up for a friend to creating your own awareness campaign. This is especially true in the age of social media, where it’s easier than ever to spread a message you believe in. Don’t underestimate the influence you can have on the lives of others.