By Emily Rosen
l’ll bet you have seen one or more of the hundreds of movies that address issues concerning mental illness. To name just a few: Psycho, A Streetcar Named Desire, Ordinary People, Rainman, Gilbert Grape, American Beauty, Black Swan, The Soloist, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Silver Lining Playbook.
Each addresses a different diagnostic malfunction of the many that attack our population, just as physical diseases are the scurge of mankind.
I’ll bet you never heard of NAMI – (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. During the month of May, NAMI, in conjunction with other mental health advocates, is bringing awareness to mental illness.
Each year, their supporters fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care.
Who doesn’t know someone with any of the following conditions: bi-polar, clinical depression, schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, mental retardation, dementia, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Agoraphobia, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, and too many more to list.
These are not conditions that are treatable with a simple toss of a “Get over it” approach that belies any understanding of the pain and suffering experienced by victims and families. And, yet, the added burden of social stigma has not been eradicated, despite every effort to educate the public to the practical need for parity in funding, research and treatment for both mental and physical anomalies, as well as the compassionate need for the same kind of empathy for mental patients as we give to cancer patients.
Here are some facts: 1 in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year. 1 in 20 lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In addition to the person directly experiencing a mental illness, family, friends and communities are also affected.
When we think about cancer, heart disease or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them. We start before Stage 4. We begin with prevention. We don’t ignore them. So why don’t we do the same for individuals who are dealing with potentially serious mental illness?
Perhaps because people may not realize that their symptoms are being caused by a mental health condition or they feel ashamed to pursue help because of the stigma associated with mental illness. It’s up to all of us to know the signs and to take action so that mental illnesses can be caught early and treated. People can and do recover and reclaim their lives.
One way to see if you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take a screening. Visit www.mhascreening.org to take a quick, confidential screening for a variety of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, mood disorders or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
There are many treatment options, ranging from talk therapy to medication to peer support, and, although it may take time for a person to find the right treatment or combination of treatments that work best for them, the results can be life-changing.
For more information about what you should know and what you can do at each stage, visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may. And get information from local low cost facilities, like www.faulkcenterforcounseling.org.