‘Nonsense,’ you say. But it’s true, one in five Americans will experience a Mental Health condition this year. To put it in perspective, you are less likely to catch the flu.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness predicts that one five adults in the US – that’s 43.8 million of us - experiences mental illness in any given year. Approximately one in 25 adults will experience a mental illness serious enough to substantially interfere or limit their major life activities.
While these numbers include everything from temporary conditions to serious, lifelong illnesses, it shows that mental health conditions are far more common than we think. It’s all in the definition.
“That’s one of the most important questions we try to answer for people,” confirms Courtney O’Connor, Development Manager for NAMI in Delaware. “There’s a lot of misconception as to what a mental illness is. A mental illness is defined as a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood.”
But, you think, everyone has ‘down’ days or the occasional ‘OCD’ moment. How to you distinguish a mental health condition from a person’s normal quirks or character?
“A Mental illness affects someone’s ability to live a ‘normal’ or everyday life,” she explains. “They will have trouble in social situations. They can have trouble with a work environment.”
She’s quick to note that each person’s experience is unique. “A mental health condition is not the result of one event,” she explains. ”It could be multiple things, and genetics, environment and lifestyle can influence whether a person gets a mental health condition.” Problems at home or added job stress can be factors. Major life events, including marriage, childbirth and relocating, as well as traumatic events such a robbery or assault are also influences. Biochemical processes and circuits and basic brain structure may play a role, too.
Why is it so important to define Mental Health conditions? To get help when we need it – early intervention can make all the difference for recovery and a return to family, school or work. Here are some more numbers.
Serious mental illness costs America almost 2 billion in lost earnings per year. Mood disorders, including major depression, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults through their early 40s.
Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions and US adults with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
Over one-third of students receiving special education services because of a mental health condition will drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group. More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.
You are not alone, Mental Health conditions are more common than you think. Learn the signs, learn when to ask for help for yourself, your family or your friends. For fact sheets and links to resources in your area visit NAMI.org.