There are a myriad of health education weeks and months for so many different diseases, each with campaigns and events to promote vital information that can engender personal, social, political, and health profession activation.
Mental health awareness encompasses a huge umbrella that embraces the impact and challenges of all these diseases – plus mental illnesses, psychiatric disabilities, stress, trauma, and comorbidities with substance use and developmental disabilities – and the inevitable family distress that comes with all of these. Left without intervention – such as education, peer and family supports, rehabilitation, and medical and psychological care in any combination – any and all of these mental health challenges are associated with the social consequences of employment and income instability, poverty and dependency, family strife, homelessness, incarceration, marginalization, and suicide.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that “published studies report that about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.” There are a few other disturbing facts that we need to accept and bring to personal and public health discussion and debate:
- Mental health problems are associated with increased occurrence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer. Similarly, mental illness is associated with lower use of medical care, reduced adherence to treatment therapies for chronic diseases, and higher risks of adverse health outcomes.
- The largest psychiatric facilities in our country, and right here on Long Island, are our municipal jails and State prisons whose inmates are disproportionately comprised of minorities who rarely have access to culturally-relevant community mental health information or services.
- The national suicide rate among Veterans is still nearly 22 per day – despite public awareness of this national tragedy. Furthermore, the rate among Veterans who served during, or after, Vietnam (the term “peacetime” Veteran is a frequent distortion of their real experiences) is rising. This pattern also aligns with that of middle-aged men in general.
- Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental health problems, about half of which begin before the age of 14.
- Nearly 75% of people who access public mental health services have reported being victims of violence and/or trauma of some kind in their lifetime. People with mental health conditions are far more frequently victims rather than perpetrators of crimes.
- 22% of people who become homeless have serious mental health problems.
- Mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide and are the second most impactful conditions affecting workplace productivity.
The more than forty events being held during Mental Health Awareness Week (www.MHAWeek.org), October 2nd through the 8th, are as broad as the umbrella itself and include films, conferences, walks, yoga, seminars, open houses, and more. Attend any one activity or event and you will be sure to gain new insights that can enlighten and inspire you, your family, a friend, or a neighbor, and perhaps enrich or even save a life of someone you care.