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Did you know that in 2017, an estimated 18.9% of all adults in the US lived with a mental illness? Back then, that percentage represented over 46 million adults. However, only 19.8 million, or less than half, received mental health services.

Untreated mental illnesses, however, can increase the risks of chronic physical health issues. They can also lead to severe complications, the most unfortunate of which is suicide.

All these correlations highlight the importance of mental health awareness. For starters, it’s the first step to eradicating the stigma of mental illness. If people know how deadly these health issues can be, they can stop saying the dreadful phrase, “it’s just a phase.”

In light of this, we’ve come up with this guide on how essential mental health awareness is. Read on to learn the hard facts about this crucial component of your health and well-being.

1. Mental Illnesses Affect People of All Ages

Of the many types of mental illnesses, anxiety disorders take the lead, affecting 19% of all US adults. Depression takes the second spot, at 7%, and then post-traumatic stress disorder, at 4%. However, up to 4% of US adults also have a dual diagnosis, which means they live with at least two mental illnesses.

Adults, however, aren’t the only ones susceptible to mental health disorders. Indeed, one in six children in the US aged six to 17 has a treatable mental illness. Unfortunately, more than half of these young people don’t receive treatment.

The thing is, children have a much harder time coping with the effects of mental health problems. This, in turn, can disrupt their functioning not only at home but also in school and the community. Researchers also say that untreated mental illnesses raise the risk of school failure.

Mental health awareness teaches people to recognize the symptoms of mental illnesses. Being able to recognize these signs, in turn, can help adults better discern the mental health of kids. At the same time, it encourages children to seek adult support if they feel that they have a mental health issue.

2. Mental Health Awareness Helps Fight Stigma  

Prejudice and discrimination are two reasons people avoid treatment for mental illness. They feel that they won’t get adequate care due to a “bias” directed toward those with a mental condition. Many others think they’ll become the subject of discrimination due to mental illness.

Fortunately, the government has taken steps to curb the stigma by passing laws against it. One of the best examples is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It helps safeguard people, including those with mental illness, from discriminatory acts.

Despite such laws, discrimination is still rampant, even in the healthcare system. Studies found that doctors, and even psychiatrists, have stigmatizing views.

One way to overcome this stigma is to keep spreading mental health awareness. However, it should also encompass the healthcare systems, including the insurance industry. That’s because up to now, many insurers still don’t cover mental illness treatment.

3. Spreading Awareness About Mental Health Can Save Lives

Some researchers say that mental disorders are a key player in 90% of suicides. Note, though, that most patients with mental illnesses don’t commit suicide. Still, studies note that the risk of suicide in people with severe mental conditions is about 5% to 8%.

In many other cases, extreme adverse life events can serve as the “tipping point.”

For instance, a catastrophic incident or failure can make one feel as if there is “no way out.” Without a support system, they may ultimately commit fatal self-harm. In these cases, mental health still plays a significant role.

Being aware of these aspects of mental health in adults and kids can help prevent such deaths. Awareness can help instill the ability to recognize the signs of mental illness. This, in turn, can provide the friends and family of a person with a way to intervene.

4. Physical Health Won’t Exist Without Mental Health

Patients with depression are 64% more at risk of getting coronary artery disease (CAD). They also have twice the risk of having a heart attack than those without depression. Depressive disorder heightens the risk of succumbing to heart diseases, too.

Indeed, people who have mental illnesses have shown to have a much shorter life span. On average, they live about 25 years less than the general population.

For many of these people, CAD is among the top culprits for their increased mortality rate.

One possible reason for this is that mental illness may raise one’s risk for risky activities. One example of such behavior is smoking. In people with a mental disorder, the rate of smoking is twice more than those without a mental illness.

Researchers also say that the smoking quit rate is higher in people without a mental illness. By contrast, those who smoke and live with a mental disorder find it harder to quit.

The thing is, people who smoke are two to four times more likely to develop CAD. They also have a 70% higher CAD-related death rate compared to those who don’t smoke.

This is only one example of the link between mental health and physical health. Many others exist, such as an increased risk for lung disorders and diabetes.

The bottom line is, without mental health, there could be no physical health. That’s why mental health problems are just as impacting as physical health conditions.

It’s also because of these reasons that mental illnesses are not only “a phase.” They are actual disorders; hence, they need medical treatment.

Spreading mental health awareness can, thus, help people seek medical treatment. In doing so, people who have a mental illness may be able to prevent chronic health problems.

5. Mental Illnesses Can Arise From Physical Health Conditions

Physical health problems are also some of the top causes of mental illness. Having heart disease, for example, can make a person develop anxiety disorders. This may stem from the constant worries that their health may take a turn for the worse.

In addition, people with chronic health problems can also succumb to depression. For instance, an estimated 17% of people with rheumatoid arthritis also have depression. After all, RA, like most other chronic conditions, can come with unbearable pain.

Chronic pain can, in turn, make any person want to avoid doing activities. Unfortunately, these often include things that used to bring them joy and pleasure.

Many other health conditions can lead to isolation, or at least foster the feeling of being alone. For example, people with chronic pain may think that they’re a “hindrance” to others. As such, they keep to themselves, which can then make them feel isolated.

Families and friends of those with mental illness can help by being aware of these things. By knowing what mental disorders can do, they can then lend support to their loved ones. They would also know what to avoid saying or doing that can worsen the symptoms of mental illness.

6. There Is Strength in Numbers

The more people who learn the importance of mental health, the less stigma there can be. Eradicating the stigma of mental illness, in turn, can prevent discrimination. If people with mental disorders don’t feel discriminated, they are more likely to get help.

Awareness also helps people with mental illnesses know that they’re not alone. If they know that there are compassionate people they can lean on, they are more likely to seek treatment. This can then help them prevent their condition from getting worse.

Also, as mentioned above, mental and physical health problems often go hand in hand. As such, mental health awareness can help prompt those who feel they have an illness to get help.

Early diagnosis and treatment can then help discover any other underlying health problem. Besides, patients can now seek help via telehealth platforms, like BetterHelp. They may want to use such tools to reach out to doctors online if they need counseling.

Moreover, awareness can help encourage others to take necessary action. This is even more important for family and friends who have a loved one they think has a mental illness. By knowing the signs to look out for, they can then take action to prevent the worst-case scenario.

Never Underestimate the Importance of Mental Health Awareness

As you can see, the primary importance of mental health awareness is that it can save lives. By being aware of just how damaging mental disorders are, everyone can do their part to put a stop to them. People who have a mental illness, in turn, will know that there are a lot of people who are ready to help.

As such, mental health awareness is one of the first vital steps to improving overall health.

Looking for more innovative health, lifestyle, and even technology guides like this? Feel free to check out the rest of our website then, and be sure to follow us online, too!


World’s First AI Therapist, SARAH, is Born

World’s First AI Therapist, SARAH, is Born

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About The Author

Innov8tiv is a dynamic Web source for technology news, resources and innovation, with a special focus on the entrepreneurial advances of Africans on the continent as well as in the Diaspora. This site seeks to not only inform consumers and companies about the latest in tech trends and ideologies, but to shed light on a phenomenon often ignored: the inventive, life-changing and creative engine that exists in Africa and among leaders of color around the world, including the UK, the Caribbean, Australia, and Asia. Send story ideas to [email protected]