Saturday, February 8, 2014

Who cares about mental illness? Well, maybe we should...

Are our attitudes so important they should keep individuals from getting the help they desperately need?

Right now, negative attitudes about mental illness, stigma, are doing just that. According to a recent survey by the American Psychiatric Association, one in three Americans believe that a major cause of mental illness is emotional or personal weakness is a major cause. Let’s be honest, why would we treat weakness? 

Well, let’s look at the impact mental illness. According to the 2009 National Survey of Drug Use and Mental Health (NSDUH), one in five adult Americans suffered from a diagnosable mental illness. With that in mind, consider that one in two prison or jail inmates have one. In fact, largest psychiatric hospital in the United States is Twin Towers Correctional Facility - the Los Angeles County jail. Deaths from suicide, which are inextricably linked to mental illness, are twice as common as those from homicide. In fact, while the percentage of deaths from homicide, traffic accidents, coronary disease, and cancer have all decreased in past decades, suicide has not. But let’s consider those who may not be committing crimes or attempting suicide. What is the leading cause of disability in the US and Canada? Not back pain, not diabetes, not heart disease, it’s mental illness.

We still talking about emotional or personal weakness here?

And yet that very attitude, that mental illness is just weakness, perpetuates all these problems. The NSDUH also found that whose functioning was seriously impacted by mental illness, less than sixty percent received mental health treatment. It is staggering how many people needlessly suffer from mental illness when there is effective treatment.

This is my research - addressing mental health stigma through intervention. In fact, you are taking part in it right now. This is an intervention. The stigma has been named, its effect described, the assumption challenged. My next step is to measure the impact of my intervention.

So here’s the question, what are you going to do next? 



Serious Mental Illness/NIMH

MH Prevalence Rates/SAMHSA - National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2009

Bureau of Justice Statistics

LA County Jails & Mental Illness

Efficacy of Stigma Interventions