Mental Health Wellness Week, October 5-11, 2014: Just the Facts, Ma’am.


Unlike most of the Awareness Months, Weeks, or Days I cover, Mental Health Awareness Week is a grassroots public education campaign–it wasn’t designated by the Senate, it isn’t supported by an organization that’s been around since the time of King David, raising money since he, in his young shepherd incarnation, picked the jewels off of Goliath–and invested them wisely. It’s just this. . .well, this week, with its focus on promoting mental health around the US.

It lists on its site a whole bunch of goals for the week–all of them worthy (can you really find fault with “promote an understanding of mental health wellness?” Could you argue against “Help individuals find support groups and wellness events in their local communities”?), and I suggest you head on over there–it’s got a lot to offer.

I find myself not in sync with the program, wondering: So many people think they know about mental illness and really don’t need to spend more time learning about it.  More power to them.  But, I wondered, did they know the following facts?

Mental Health Stats You Just Might Have Missed

  • There are more people with mental health problems than there are with cancer and heart  disease– COMBINED.
  • And about half of all those mental disorders begin before the age of 14.
  • 46% of Americans will experience mental illness in their lifetime, and 26% will experience some form of mental disorder every year.
  • Every year, there are at least 8 million people in the United States who have a mental disorder but do not seek proper help.
  • Those with mental illness are three times more likely to be in the criminal justice system than in hospitals in the US.
  • More than 50% of adults and 70% of children in America are NOT receiving treatment for their mental illness.
  • Antidepressants were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages in 2005–2008 and the most frequently used drug by persons people aged 18–44 years.
  •  From 1988–1994 through 2005–2008, the rate of antidepressant use in the United States (among all ages) increased almost 400%.
  • The average length of inpatient stay in a psychiatric hospital is 7.2 days.
  • The number of prescriptions for antipsychotics given to children and adolescents has increased by 8-fold since the early 90s.
  • Worldwide, someone suicides every 40 seconds.
  • Most low- and middle-income countries have only one child psychiatrist for every 1 to 4 million people.
  • The hands-down, single largest cause of disability world-wide is depression.  But, wait, there’s more. On the list of the “Top-10” you will also find: bipolar disorder (#6), schizophrenia (#9), alcohol abuse (#4), and self-inflicted injuries (#5).
  •  Older Caucasian males commit suicide at the highest rate of any population group.
  • The five countries with the highest suicide rates are, in order (close your eyes and guess before you read): Greenland, South Korea, Lithuania, Guyana, and Kazakhstan (did you get any right?).
  • BUT. . .the vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. A mere 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to the mentally ill.

I want to call special attention to the following stat–maybe you should even read it twice:

  • By being proactive and seeking help for their mental illness, between 70 and 90 percent of people experience tremendous reduction of their symptoms and live a better life.

In fact, your life might just be better enough that you can . . . .

donate to the Mental Health Wellness Week organization.

Wouldn’t that have worked out well for everyone?


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