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Why We Should All Start Talking About Mental Illness


Want to save lives? Start a conversation about mental health with your friends and family.

The truth is that we are all at risk of one day developing a psychological disorder.

Every year, nearly one in five Americans — about 42.5 million American adults — suffers from mental illness, including conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, according to 2014 statistics from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 50 percent of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.

Despite the widespread nature of these illnesses, nearly two-thirds of those affected do not seek treatment, according to Bring Change 2 Mind (a national nonprofit organization created by Glenn Close in 2010 after her sister Jessie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her nephew Calen was diagnosed with schizoaffectve disorder).

The reason they don’t seek treatment is primarily the negative stigma. The fear and stigma around mental health issues often lead to inaccurate and hurtful objectification of people suffering from mental illness as dangerous and incompetent. The shame and isolation associated with this stigma prevent people from seeking the help necessary to live healthy and full lives.

Think of it this way: Imagine if you got blamed or judged negatively for having cancer. No one asks for a mental illness, so it’s not right that people react to those with mental illness differently than those suffering from a chronic medical illness.

And this is an issue that affects men even more than it does women. Bring Change 2 Mind reports that over the past 30 years the rate of suicide among men has been three to four times that of women. This is a topic that hits close to home for me: I lost my younger brother, James J. Barron III, who was a student in the MBA program at NYU’s Stern School of Business, to suicide exactly 13 years ago this week. And it was brought to mind recently for many people when actor and comedian Robin Williams committed suicide in August of 2014.

Bring Change 2 Mind created a set of videos featuring NFL All-Pro Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (who talks about suffering from borderline personality disorder), comedian and actor Wayne Brady (who talks about suffering from depression) and musician Michael Angelakos, lead singer of indie electronica band Passion Pit (who talks about his bipolar diagnosis).

Check out their video:

Men tend to shy away from talking about their feelings because it is viewed as negative and weak. “Research shows that men can positively influence each other through group discussions about health,” Bring Change 2 Mind points out. “Additionally, studies have found that men are less likely to report pain when they are in front of a female clinician, which points to the possibility that men may be more honest about their condition with other men.” So the hope is that guys will start conversations about mental illness with their friends.

According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with one suicide occurring, on average, every 13 minutes. Approximately 987,950 Americans attempt suicide each year. Furthermore, an estimated 5 million Americans are survivors of a friend, family member or loved one’s suicide.

Last week Facebook partnered with mental health organizations Forefront, Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Save.org to roll out a new feature aimed to aid in suicide prevention. If a Facebook friend posts something that leads you to believe he might be thinking of harming himself, you can click the little “Report Post” arrow at the top right. There, you’ll be given the options to contact the friend who made the post, contact another friend for support or contact a suicide help line.

Two Important Things You Can Do to Help End the Stigma

1. Start a conversation with your friends and family about mental illness.

2. Make it a topic of conversation online by sharing the image above on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #StrongerThanStigma. See all current tweets with the hashtag #StrongerThanStigma.

3. Check out our piece on 8 Warning Signs of Depression That You Shouldn’t Ignore to to learn how to recognize the most common symptoms of depression — whether in yourself, friends or family members — and how to get help.

Copyright © 2015 Demand Media, Inc

About Black Patient

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