Mental Health, Mental Illness and Mental Wellness

Ken Donaldson Mental Illness and Mental Wellness

Check out this mouthful: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies released the highlights from their 2009 report.

(Did you get all that?)

Overall they shared that in 2009 there were approximately 45.1 million adults (aged 18 or older) in the U.S. with a diagnosable mental condition. This represents about 20% of all adults in this country.

That includes everything from paranoid type schizophrenia chronic state with acute exacerbation to adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features, as well as all points in-between.

That means, more or less, one out of every five people struggle with some type of diagnosable mental condition.

That’s a lot of people…yes?

In fact, that would make mental disorders the most common of all medical disorders and conditions in the U.S.

And, among adults (again, aged 18 or older) in 2009, the percentage having a “serious mental condition” was about 5% which is about 11.0 million adults.

How do you define “serious mental condition”?

It would include some or all of the following symptoms:
•    Distorted perceptions; loss of contact with reality, such as delusions or hallucinations.
•    Disordered, disorganized and confused thinking.
•    Unstable and inappropriate emotions.
•    Bizarre behavior.
•    Severely impaired judgment.

Additionally, these serious mental conditions also would include:
•    High vulnerability to stress.
•    Excessive dependency.
•    Hostility and rage.
•    Extreme difficulty with interpersonal relationships.
•    Deficient or non-existent coping skills.
•    Poor ability to learn and fear of new situations.
•    Severely restricted emotional response and overall lack of enjoyment.
•    Reduced/impaired speech and inability to engage in abstract thinking.
•    Inability to pay attention, as well as overall “slowness.”
•    Apathy, lack of motivation and phobic avoidance of situations.
•    Sensitivity to over- (and under-) stimulation.

Wow…that’s quite a list!

But don’t worry, there’s ONLY about 11 million who have a serious mental condition.

But let’s go on with the report.

Adult women were more likely than adult men to have any mental condition (23.8% vs. 15.6%) or serious mental condition (6.4% vs. 3.2%) in 2009.

(So, if you’re a woman and you’re reading this you might want to take some extra steps to protect yourself.)

Additionally, about 8.4 million adults (3.7%) had serious thoughts about suicide in the past year. Among these, about 2.2 million (1.0%) made suicide plans in the past year, and 1.0 million (0.5%) attempted suicide in the past year.

(Don’t take it lightly…if someone you know talks about suicide, contact a professional.)

Also, among the 45.1 million adults with a mental condition in 2009, just about 20% (8.9 million) met criteria for substance dependence or abuse in that period compared with “only” 6.5% (11.9 million) among those who did not have mental illness in the past year.

When substance abuse is mixed with a mental condition, it results in what is commonly referred to as “double trouble” which means that these two destructive forces collide with each other, dramatically amplifying the negative consequences.

Now here’s where the report gets really interesting.

Among the 45.1 million adults with a mental condition in 2009, only 17.1 million (37.9%) received mental health services in the past year.

Wow…far less than half received treatment! How come?

No insurance? Maybe.

Inadequate insurance (No mental health coverage)? Probably.

Didn’t know they needed help (Denial)? Perhaps.

Didn’t want to admit they needed help (Ego)? Definitely.

Didn’t know where to go or what to ask for (Societal ignorance)? Absolutely.

(Bottom-line: We’re too ignorant, too ill-equipped and too egotistical to go for help.)

Furthermore, in 2009 there were 2 million youths (those between 12 and 17), or 8.1% of the adolescent population, who had a major depressive episode during the past year.

(That is ONLY major depression and does NOT cover any other mental conditions.)

Of these 2 million youths who experienced a major depressive episode, 35.7% used illicit drugs in the past year compared with 18% among those youths who did not have a major depressive episode in the last year.

(Once again, double trouble.)

SO…what do we do with all this and what conclusions can be drawn?

First, it’s clear that there is a lack of mental wellness and mental health education in our mainstream.

Think of the difference in these numbers if we taught kids, beginning at an early age, how to better cope with life and the stressors thereof.

Stress management, assertiveness training, healthy boundary setting and values clarification are just a few of the many topics that could be (and should be!) included in the regular curriculum for every child.

(How about “leaving no child behind” with that?!!)

Second, why do we still treat mental health issues separately from other health issues?

Mental health deserves the same dignity, rights and treatment as any other medical condition.

Third, why do SO many doctors not have a clue how to properly treat their patients (i.e. about 90% of people prescribed anti-depressants are never prescribed therapy to go with it…hello??)?

Maybe there could be much more focus put on the doctor-patient relationship, rather than the doctor-insurance company relationship.

And fourth, when are we going to wake up and treat ourselves more holistically, instead of thinking that our heads are not connected to our bodies?

And, fifth, what would happen if we starting thinking more more mental wellness?

Just a few things to think about…just asking…

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