Mental Health Awareness Month is coming up in May so now is a good time to look at the state of mental health in our nation. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a wealth of information on its website (www.nami.org) that is reader-friendly and practical.
Nearly 1 in 25 adults live with a serious mental illness. People tend to think of mental illness in terms of diagnoses such as bipolar, OCD, or schizophrenia. But mental illness also includes more common issues such as depression and suicide.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24. 90% of those who die by suicide had an underlying mental illness. Depression and suicide have some symptoms and causes in common such as:
- Genetics/family history
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Chronic illness/pain
Due to the widespread prevalence of depression and suicide, prevention and treatment are essential. However, at least half of adults and children do not receive treatment for mental illness. New research shows that abuse in childhood alters the brain to make adults more susceptible to depression (Reuters Health, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-depression-childhood/child-abuse-recurrent-depression-linked-to-similar-changes-in-brain-idUSKCN1RS251). In the child welfare system two-thirds of children have mental health needs that warrant treatment while less than a quarter of these children receive services (Florida Atlantic University Study, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/fau-uoc041519.php).
What can all of us do to address mental illness? The best place to start is with knowledge and then translate knowledge into a willingness and ability to recognize and help those who are dealing with mental illness.
Mental Health First Aid is a one-day course for both professionals and lay people in learning how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders in the community. I took this course with a small- town police force and other first responders. The course has been invaluable in helping me respond to those I encounter with these issues. An added bonus was understanding how first responders think about these issues.
Another excellent course is QPR training on suicide. The initials stand for Question, Persuade, Refer. It employs the strategy of being strategically positioned as a gatekeeper to recognize and refer someone at risk of suicide. Online training is available that can be completed in about an hour.
To promote mental wellness, one of the best things we can do is be a friend. Isolation and loneliness are factors in mental illness and friendship helps mitigate those factors. As we head into Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s all look for opportunities to be a friend to someone who needs mental health!
For information on the QPR Course: https://qprinstitute.com/individual-training
For information on Mental Health First Aid: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/
To view NAMI Fact Sheets: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Infographics-Fact-Sheets
Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director