Mental Health Matters
Mental Health Matters
Written by Corry Hawkins, LCSW, Clinical Director of Kranz Psychological Services
What is Mental Health?
The term “mental health” is becoming more and more common. It’s important to know what this means and why it should matter to you. Mental health generally includes a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Being “mentally healthy” typically means a person is able to cope with emotions and stresses of everyday life; maintain healthy relationships; and contribute to their community (work, school, home, etc.) in a satisfying way.
When a person is “mentally ill,” this means that they are struggling to cope, maintain relationships, or participate in their community as would be expected. Many still perceive mental illness or mental health disorders as a sign of weakness or immorality. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anyone who has struggled with mental health can tell you they would prefer not to struggle. It’s not a choice.
If you had a heart disease, would you avoid telling anyone for fear of judgement? If someone you know had the flu, would you tell them the flu does not exist? Of course not. Mental health disorders need to be acknowledged and understood. Nothing good or helpful comes from avoiding the topic or placing blame.
How Common is Mental Illness?
More common than you may think. Studies that were able to assess large numbers of Americans in 2017 concluded that approximately 1 in 5 American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition during any given year, which comes to about 51 million people. More recent estimates suggest that about 13 million American adults suffer with a severe mental health illness. These are huge numbers!
These conditions are not just affecting adults. 16.5% of youth, ages 6 to 17, experienced a mental health disorder in 2016, and that number seems to be on the rise. That’s over 7 million children and teens.
Those suffering with mental illness come from all cultures, genders, ages, and backgrounds. Mental health disorders do not discriminate, so one of the most hurtful things we can do is assume a person’s mental illness is the result of their background or geography.
The Whole Person
Every person is more than just their mental health. There are many factors that make up the “whole person.” Your health and wellbeing are not contingent on just one area of life. For instance, if you succeed professionally but ignore your physical health, you will eventually struggle at work too. The same can happen when you ignore your mental health.
The health of a “whole person” includes physical health, mental health (emotional and psychological), social health, spiritual health, and professional or financial health. Finding a balance between these different areas of your life can be difficult, but it is worth the work. Hopefully you would not ignore a constant sharp pain in your side for years, so don’t ignore a depressed mood either. Sadly, the average length of time between the onset of a mental illness and receiving treatment is 11 years. Don’t wait!
“Mental Health by the Numbers.” NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mar. 2021, https://www.nami.org/mhstats.
“Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.
“Quick Facts and Statistics About Mental Health.” Mental Health America, https://www.mhanational.org/mentalhealthfacts.
“What Is Mental Illness?” What Is Mental Illness?, Aug. 2018, https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness.