The hashtag #mentalhealth is trending on Twitter. But why? Why are people suddenly talking so much about mental health?
2019 has been a hard year for so many people. It’s been a hard year politically, with contentious posts filling our newsfeeds on a daily basis. With SAD (seasonal affective disorder) setting in this month for thousands of people, it’s an especially important topic now.
Statistics on mental health
Mental health affects millions of people on a daily basis. How many, exactly?
- According to Mental Health First Aid, 46.4% of adults will go through mental illness at some point in their lives.
- 43.8 million adults per year live with mental health issues
- Of that number: 5.8% have more than one disorder, and 6% have 3+
- Half of the cases of mental illness start presenting by the age of 14, and 75% start by age 24.
- Only 41% of these people receive treatment.
(These statistics apply to the United States)
So, what can we take from this? Mental illness is way more common than people think. Every year 5 times the amount of people who live in New York City lives with mental illness. And that is just in the US alone. Also, we can see from the stats that most of these cases begin to present during the teenage years.
Not sure how to recognize the symptoms of depression? Check out the link to read more.
Want some more statistics about mental illness? Check out this link.
My story with depression
I’ve lived with some form of depression ever since I was 9 years old. My cousin died and it changed our family’s dynamic, and hearts, forever. It had irreparable effects on my mental health.
As a teen, I was more sullen than normal, withdrawn, and my grades slipped a little. I also had a lot of anxiety about school. My parents started taking me to a therapist, and that was the start of my journey of attempting to diagnose and treat my mental health issues.
Since then my diagnosis has changed from major depression to bipolar disorder 2 (with rapid cycling mixed episodes— meaning, my moods change at the drop of a hat throughout the day with absolutely no warning or pattern)
I’m not going to lie: it is very hard to live with mental illness. But once that shift in mindset takes place— where you start living with mental illness, and not suffering from mental illness— you can begin to heal.
What you can do to help
There are lots of things you can do to help a loved one who has a mental illness. The most important thing you can do is listen. For the most part, when we speak with our partners/friends about our mental illness, we are not doing so with the expectation that they will fix our problem. (That would be nice!) Mostly, we just want someone to listen.
Another thing you can do— and I cannot drive this point home enough— is never ever invalidated their feelings. Gaslighting is very real. For those not familiar with the term, gaslighting is basically when a person attempts to convince someone else that their problems are imaginary. This is a form of emotional abuse. You always, always want to support your loved one by accepting their feelings and reassuring them that they are valid.
One more thing you can do is check in on them often. We often use the famous example of Robin Williams. His smile and humor lit up the world for decades, but inside he was crippled by sadness and emotional torment. One of the best things you can do for your depressed friends or family members is just to ask them how they are. And like I said before, really listen.
Resources to be aware of
As you start learning more about the mental health crisis (and yes, with 44 million US adults affected per year, it is a major crisis), you will want to arm yourself with as many resources as possible.
Here are some great mental health resources that you need to keep in a safe, accessible place for times of crisis.
Ways you can cope
If you find yourself battling emotional issues and needing some support, here are some great pieces of wisdom:
- Talk about it— Keeping it inside is so tempting. It’s easy to want to hide our mental health problems because they are sometimes scary. We worry they will make people want to avoid us, or we will lose friends. I promise: a real friend will not drop you because you are depressed. So don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
- Start seeing a therapist— This can be scary too. Talking to a stranger about our problems is definitely a bit daunting. However, they will be able to arm you with strategies to help you cope. They are trained to help, and therapy is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Break a sweat— Exercise is so therapeutic. Not only is it good for you physically, but when you exercise it releases feel-good hormones that boost your mood and energy. When you feel a little better physically, it is easier to feel better emotionally, and vice versa.
- Stay connected— One thing we’re tempted to do when we’re depressed is become withdrawn. Like I said, we fear our friends and family won’t understand or won’t care about us if we have a mental illness. So we hide. But it’s important to stay connected when you’re mentally ill. It helps you re-establish some normalcy, and your relationships with loved ones give you something to live for.
After you read this, I hope you feel more confident about either getting help for your mental health issues or more confident in supporting a loved one facing these issues.
No matter what walk of life you come from, remember: there is help out there. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You are not alone.
About the Author
Jen (the writer behind the blog, Diffusing the Tension) lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband and two children (ages 4 and 2). She has bipolar disorder and frequently writes about her experiences with that. In her spare time, she is OBSESSED with true crime. She is also a bookworm, TV junkie, and fitness nut. You can follow her on:
Facebook- Diffusing the Tension
Her blog- www.diffusingthetension.com