May is recognized nationally as Mental Health Awareness Month. Although I would advocate that mental health should be acknowledged and addressed daily, I am thankful our country sees that it is valuable and important.
One in five U.S. adults are diagnosed with a mental health condition each year. In 2019, 20.6% (51.5 million people) experienced a mental illness and 5.2% (13.1 million) experienced a serious mental illness and, remarkably, less than two-thirds of those received treatment.
The average delay between the onset of a mental health condition and receiving treatment is 11 years. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people age 10-34 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
We can do better. Stigma, awareness, and resources are three main factors that impact mental health in our country.
Stigma refers to the negative attitudes and beliefs attributed to having a mental health condition. Those who face mental health challenges are often shamed or feel a sense of shame about their illness and fear misunderstanding or mistreatment from others based on their mental illness. This prevents those with mental health conditions from speaking out and accessing the resources to help them cope. So many of our friends, family, neighbors, and community members suffer in silence. We need to push beyond the fear, share our struggles and stories with others and seek help.
Awareness, actually the lack of it, contributes greatly to the growing pool of silent sufferers. Although we could always use more resources and enhanced access, there are resources and help available. We need to speak out, educate, advertise, and promote the use of these resources in order to assist those struggling with mental health challenges. Even in the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is help available.
We are in unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic as this has undoubtedly brought on additional life stressors which have led to an increased need for mental health supports and treatment. We are experiencing a collective global trauma with varying negative effects on mental health.
In addition to the pandemic, our society is facing challenges with political dissent; mass violence; interpersonal violence; police brutality; and racial, ethnic, and cultural disparities. It is imperative that we reach out to educate, provide support, and even ask for help.
Although roughly 25% of us will have a mental health diagnosis in our lifetime, 100% of us have mental health. Our mental health is critical to our overall health and well-being. Mental health issues are common and treatable. There is no shame in being human and reacting or responding to life’s challenges. There are practical tools and resources available to help cope and develop strength and resiliency.
The Centers for Disease Control reported in November 2020 that 44% of us were dealing with either depression or anxiety. No one is immune to the difficulty brought on by life’s many challenges and some of those can seem like more than we can handle. There is hope for those who are struggling.
What people need to know:
We all have mental health.
It is OK to not be OK.
Reach out for help.
Listen and offer help to others.
There are resources available.
Know how to access resources.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it; I guarantee someone else needs to hear it.
Here are some resources:
You can get a free mental health screening at mhscreening.org
Heart of Texas Region MHMR Center
Adult Mental Health, 254-752-3451
24-Hour Crisis/Emergency Hotline, 1-866-752-3451
Crisis Counseling Program-Texans Recovering Together, 1-866-576-1101 or trthotccp.org
Klaras Center for Families
Children’s Mental Health, 254-752-7889
National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-773-8255
Crisis Text Line-Text “HELLO” to 741741
Heart of Texas Region MHMR Center, hotrmhmr.org
Aunt Bertha Resource Referral Platform, findhelp.org
211.org, or call 211
Mental Health America, mhanational.org
National Alliance on Mental Illness, nami.org
Telawna Kirbie is director of behavioral health programs with Prosper Waco.