May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it is extremely important to reach across the nation to draw attention to the various - and often surprising - ways that mental illness affect people's lives. This May, a number of new research findings highlight the need for increased understanding of, empathy for, and respect for people mental health issues.
Mental Health is Important
People who struggle with mental health issues have long felt that they are different from others. Due to the lasting stigma, discussions of mental illness tend to speak about "people with mental illness" as of they are a foreign group that a few of us ever encounter. The reality is that mental illness is incredibly common. In fact, a recent study claims that a life unmarred by mental illness is the real anomaly, especially in the age groups from 11-38 years old.
Not many people realize the constant stressors and challenges that are happening in or around the lives of young people today. All of the issues that our young people face, such as bullying, suicide, the onset of major mental illnesses, the effects of trauma, and discrimination require our time and attention, awareness and compassion. We also need new programs and guidelines on how we, as a whole, can protect and empower the next generation.
Did you know? Young people who grow up with additional stressors due to the effects of trauma, discrimination, bullying, mental illness, and suicide are more likely to have mental health issues throughout the rest of their lives? Here's a look at some statistics that may surprise you:
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among those aged 15-29 years old.
- 83% of young people say that bullying has had a negative impact on their self esteem and mental health.
- 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness, but that is only 20% of the population. Yet, only 4% of the total health care budget is spent on mental health.
- Among nearly 100 transgender youth, ages 12 to 24 years old, 51% reported that they had suicidal thoughts, while 30% had attempted it at least once in their lives.
In a study, which followed people ages 11 to 38 years old, and tracked their mental health, 17% avoided mental illness. 41% had a mental health condition that lasted for many years. 42% had a short lived mental illness. This study suggests that mental illness becomes an issue for most people. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse were the most common diagnoses in the study.
Bullying + Mental Health
Bullying is widely one of the most negative aspects of youth and young adulthood today. This is an issue that transcends culture, religion, economic status, and it is a global problem that not only impacts a person's self esteem, but it harms their education, as well as their physical and mental wellbeing.
Did you know?
- Childhood bullying can damage adult life, indicating long term negative consequences for health, employment prospects, and relationships.
- School bullies are more likely to grow into adult criminals.
- The most negative outcomes are for people who had been both victims and perpetrators of bullying.
- Bully victims are described as: easily provoked, low in self esteem, poor at understanding social cues, and unpopular with peers.
- Bully victims tend to grow into adults who are 6 times more likely to have a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop a psychiatric disorder.
- By their mid 20s, former bully victims are more likely to be obese, to have left school without qualifications, to have drifted through jobs, and less likely to have friends.
- Those who had been victims of bullying, without becoming bullies themselves, are more likely to be in poverty.
- Those who were bullies themselves, are more likely to be fired from jobs, to be in violent relationships, to be involved in risky or illegal behavior, and are known to have manipulative and aggressive behavior.
If you see or hear bullying going on whether it's at school, work, home, stand up. Say something. Be the change to help stop it.
The Effects of Trauma on Young People + Their Mental Health
A traumatic event can be anything from domestic abuse, neglect, floods, earthquakes, gun violence, war, physical assaults, death and accidents. While some trauma is unpredictable and unavoidable, young people who do not have support systems, the impacts can last for months, years, or a lifetime. Children from all walks of life endure violence, and millions more are at risk every single day.
Did you know?
- Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence.
- The protection of children from all forms of violence is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights treaties and standards.
- Children who have been severely abused or neglected are often hampered in their development, experience learning difficulties, and perform poorly in school.
- Children may have low self esteem, and suffer from depression, which can lead to risk behavior and self harm.
- Children who witness violence can cause similar distress. Children who grow up in a violent household or community, tend to internalize that behavior as a way of resolving disputes.
- They often repeat that pattern of violence and abuse against their own children and spouses.
- 18 million children are being raised in the chaos of war.
- In the past 10 years, as a result of armed conflict, over 2 million children have been killed, 6 million have been disabled, 20 million are homeless, and more than 1 million have become separated from their caregivers.
- Children between the ages of 12 to 18, having had more years exposed to violent conflict, struggle to recover from years of compounding traumas, often revealing pervasive feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, grief, resentment, anger and fear.
Mass violence is shocking and disturbing to youth on many levels. It disrupts the way that they see the world, makes them feel out of control, unsafe, and that the world has lost its meaning. They can begin to worry that dangerous things can happen to them or those they love.
We can help our young people cope with these additional stresses of mass violence and trauma occurring in our world. How? Monitor the amount of TV watching. Ask your children what they have heard or what other kids are saying. Find out what concerns your child has and take them seriously. Tackle the tough questions, such as the why's and how's. Keep the routine, and spend more time together as a family. Allow more time for extra comforting, process your own feelings, and monitor your child's behavior and seek help if necessary.
Mental and Physical Health Are Inseparable
Research increasingly continues to point out the link between physical and mental health. For example, some studies suggest that chronic inflammation may cause depression. Others have found that mental illness can affect physical health, or lead to symptoms of chronic pain.
The invisible line between the mind and body is imaginary. Our thoughts reside in the brain, and the brain lives in the body. It's affected by what we eat, how we spend our time, our environment, and our overall health.
Imagine a world without stigma. Imagine a world without shame. Imagine all of the good that we could do to contribute to mental health awareness. Imagine the people we could educate, the lives we could save. What a wonderful thought, and the best part is, we CAN make it happen! By speaking up, by sharing our stories, by better understanding mental health diagnoses, and improving societal empathy, we can be the change we wish to see in this world.