Mental health is one of the few places the medical field has absolutely FAILED in the US. And when I say failed, I mean failed with a big fat ‘F’. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, exit stage left kind of fail.
The numbers don’t lie. The statistics of how we’ve failed, and continue to do so, are staggering. Over half of American adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment, even to this day. Teenage depression rates are rising. 43.7 million Americans struggle with a diagnosable mental health disorder, which is over 18% of the population. These numbers even EXCLUDE developmental disorders and over 8% of adults in America who report having a substance or alcohol problem!
How can this BE? We’re in 2017, people! We can’t IGNORE over a quarter of the population!
We HAVE GOT to do better at helping those with mental health problems. Not tomorrow – TODAY!
This really hit home for me in a one-two punch. My friend’s brother, who had been struggling with depression, committed suicide. The following year, I was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t really soak in the hardship of my friend’s loss until I saw myself in a similar boat – struggling to keep myself afloat mentally and physically.
Mental health problems can affect any one of us. Our friends, our family, and ourselves. Just like breaking a leg or having cancer, treatment SHOULD be available to everyone. For any reason.
But it’s not.
No matter how you slice it, millions of Americans struggle with mental health…every….single….day.
I found myself struggling with anxiety and depression after my diagnosis. I couldn’t accept that cancer could happen to me. I became terrified of the sun’s UV “death rays” and scared of being in the sun (see my post about conquering that fear here). My entire career has been in healthcare, but I developed “white coat syndrome” – it’s a real thing – where before every appointment or scan, I would sit in the waiting room, sweating profusely with my blood pressure and heart rate skyrocketing. My dread and anxiety when seeing the doctor became the norm.
Does this sound familiar?
When I finally decided to take control of my thoughts and emotions, things slowly became better. I decided that cancer may take my body, but I wouldn’t let it take my soul. I became stronger mentally and started to bail out the sinking ship to weather the storm. I did this through mind-body connection methods such as mindfulness meditation and journaling that I discuss in this blog.
Many people can do this same thing and eventually bail themselves out. Many others, however, need professional help to lead them in the right direction through the storm.
BOTH methods towards mental health simply DO NOT have enough support out there. Those who want to take control of their thoughts on their own don’t have enough support. And those who need professional help don’t have easy access to professionals.
We HAVE GOT to help each other and ourselves. We need to acknowledge that America needs better access to mental health services. Ignoring this problem won’t make it go away. And every day, more and more people are struggling.
Mental health doesn’t have to be this way. If you see someone struggling, don’t ignore the symptoms. If you need help, please reach out. Anxiety, depression, anger, and fear don’t have to be a daily part of your life.
Let’s admit America has a mental health problem.
Because as the saying goes, admitting you have a problem is the first step in fixing the problem.