Health News sponsored by VCU Health
Do you know what mental illness
feels or looks like?
~ Minority Mental Health Awareness ~
by J. Chevonte’ Alexander
Mental health is a sense of wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem. Young or old. Black or White. Man or woman. Mental illness has no defined type of person that it impacts and if you know someone with a mental illness, it can impact you personally as well. Even though anyone can be diagnosed with a mental illness, health sources report that there is an increasingly large amount of minorities with a mental illness when compared to other populations.
The month of July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This gives us an opportunity to pause and ask ourselves: are we making progress in meeting the mental health needs of our diverse racial and ethnic populations across the country.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Month is “Life with a Mental Illness,” and the mental illness awareness organizations are calling on individuals “to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them in words, pictures and video by tagging their social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike.
Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being. We all experience times of difficulty and stress in our lives, but prevention is an effective way to reduce the burden of mental illnesses. We often hear the clinical terms used by doctors and other professionals to identify the symptoms of mental illnesses…but if someone hasn’t gone through it, would they know how to recognize it?
Two people with the same diagnosis can experience the same symptoms and describe it in different ways. Understanding the signs of a mental illness and identifying with someone who has an illness can be the first step to getting them the appropriate help.
One in five adults experiences a mental health condition every year. One in twenty 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. Fifty percent of mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24. The normal personality and behavior changes of adolescence may mimic or mask symptoms of a mental health condition. Early engagement and support are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery.
Mental illness affects one in four American families and people in diverse communities are no exception.
The U.S. Surgeon General reports that minorities:
- are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for their mental illness
- have less access to and availability of mental health services
- often receive a poorer quality of mental health care
- are underrepresented in mental health research
In the Presidential Proclamation – National Mental Health Awareness Month, 2016, President Barack Obama made the following comments:
During National Mental Health Awareness Month, we recognize those Americans who live with mental illness and substance use disorders, and we pledge solidarity with their families who need our support as well. Let us strive to ensure people living with mental health conditions know that they are not alone, that hope exists, and that the possibility of healing and thriving is real. Together, we can help everyone get the support they need to recover as they continue along the journey to get well.
So, what can we do to help? Talk about how it feels to live with a mental illness. Whether it is anxiety, depression, psychosis, or you are in recovery – we know that mental illnesses are common and treatable, and help is available.