All signs point toward an upward trend in mental health concerns in the United States. Neurological research, population health studies and qualitative surveys all show that more people than ever are meeting diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, panic disorders, personality disorders and more. In 2017 alone, an estimated 46.6 million adults — 18.9 percent of the adult population — in the U.S. had a mental illness. Of these, 24 percent had a serious mental illness that interfered with one or more major life activities such as work, school or relationships.
While it’s unclear whether these numbers indicate an improvement in diagnostics or a higher rate of occurrence of mental illness, the effect is the same: a steadily increasing number of people are in need of treatment or assistance to help them manage their mental health.
Despite its prevalence, however, mental health remains stigmatized in our culture. Out of the 46.6 million adults in the U.S. with mental illness, only 19.8 million — 42.6 percent, significantly less than half — received treatment for their concerns. Too many people avoid diagnosis or treatment because they are afraid of what it means to have a mental health disorder. They may downplay their symptoms, which leads their loved ones to misjudge the situation. For many, it’s easier to brush off depression as having a few bad days than it is to make an appointment with a mental healthcare provider.
But no matter how mental illness may appear on the outside, the individual who is struggling is likely experiencing a host of inner difficulties. Living with mental illness like anxiety or depression can feel debilitating, and cause problems in many areas of an individual’s life. It’s critical not to ignore the signs of a mental health disorder, and to get help and treatment for mental health matters when they arise.
Mental Health is Tied to Physical Health
It’s becoming increasingly clear in modern medicine that mental and physical health are deeply intertwined. A growing body of research shows that exercising regularly, while benefiting your muscles, heart and more, also improves mood regulation, perceived happiness and self-confidence. And, studies like one carried out by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health have found that the opposite may also be true: out of 10,000 subjects, those who had a happier and more optimistic attitude at the start of the study were more likely to exercise over the course of the next 10 years.
Living with poor mental health, on the other hand, can impact physical health in negative ways. Several published studies show that mental illness is linked to a higher risk of a variety of physical concerns, including lowered life expectancy, cancer fatality, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. It’s important to heal your mind so that you feel more motivated to take care of yourself and live a longer, happier and more fulfilling life.
Mental Health Disorders Increase Risk of Substance Abuse
When it comes to risks that are heightened by mental health disorders, not the least of them is a higher risk of developing a substance abuse problem. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that people with a mental illness are about twice as likely as those without mental illness to develop a chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol. And of the 46.6 million Americans with a mental illness, nearly 8.5 million had a co-occurring substance use disorder. The harmful of effects of addiction are well-known — it’s essential to get treatment for mental health concerns so that accompanying substance abuse issues don’t also arise.
Abusing drugs or alcohol is also known to make the symptoms of a mental health disorder worse. The changes that drugs and alcohol cause in the brain can make symptoms feel better temporarily, which cause many people to turn to them to self-medicate for mental health disorders. But when the high wears off, the brain is left feeling drained, which brings the original symptoms back in full force. With the interplay between these two, addiction and mental health recovery centers like Enlightened Solutions are increasingly offering what’s known as dual diagnosis treatment: targeted care that helps people learn to manage both addiction and a mental health disorder at the same time. This offers longer-lasting and sustainable solutions to both problems and helps prevent relapse in the future.
Untreated Mental Illness Can Have Serious Consequences
The last and most important reason to seek help for mental health matters is that mental illness can be deadly. Mental illness-related deaths are not only linked to poor physical health, but also to suicide. The National Alliance on Mental Health presents the following chilling statistics:
- On average, adults in the U.S. with mental illness die 25 years earlier than those without — usually as a result of an untreated health condition.
- More than 90% of suicide fatalities are individuals who were diagnosed with a mental health condition or exhibited signs of a mental health condition.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death nationwide, and the 2nd leading cause of death for Americans aged 10-34.
Taking mental health seriously and getting the necessary treatment can truly save your life or the life of a loved one. If you or someone close to you is exhibiting symptoms that you believe might be signs of a mental health disorder, reach out for help. Effective treatment is available in many forms, including regular mental health counseling, lifestyle changes, carefully managed medication and inpatient recovery programs.
At Enlightened Solutions, we believe that everyone has a right to live a full and happy life. We know that you can find fulfillment, no matter how long you have been fighting with mental illness or substance abuse. We provide targeted, individualized care in New Jersey for men and women who are living with concerns including depression, anxiety and panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder. We are also equipped to provide dual diagnosis care for individuals who have co-occurring mental health concerns and substance or process addictions. We encourage you to reach out to us if you need help for yourself or a loved one — even if you are not in the New Jersey area, we admit clients from out of state or we can direct you to resources to help you find treatment near you. Contact us today at 833-801-LIVE.