I’m Not Okay, But Don’t Tell Anyone
Unraveling the mystery to change the mental health crisis
It’s as if we like to think that if we don’t talk about it, mental illness is not real or certainly will never happen to us.
But we couldn’t be more wrong.
We like to think that change is catalyzed by knowledge, initiatives, or education.
And it’s true - our world is changing – the mental health crisis is brewing to pandemic proportions. Mental illnesses are silently creeping into the lives of anyone, anywhere, irrespective of financial or social status, education level, gender, religion, or personal history.
Years of silence have given a stronghold to stigma, discrimination, and increased disease prevalence. In the United States, one in five adults is living with a mental illness.[i] Across the European Union, one in four adults experience at least one serious mental health disorder annually.[ii] Young adults, ages 18-25, have the highest prevalence of mental illnesses at 25.8%.[i]
Neuropsychiatric disorders are the top cause of disability in the U.S., accounting for 18.7% of all years of life lost to disability, ill-health, or early death.[iii] Depression is the leading cause of disability and the fourth leading contributor to the global burden of disease.[iv] Depression is also associated with high rates of suicidality. Among individuals who have committed suicide, up to 50% have a primary diagnosis of depression.[iv]
Yet, with such disease prevalence, it is shocking that over 70% of people with mental illness around the world are not receiving treatment from healthcare staff.[v] Several suggested factors for the increase in treatment avoidance or delay include: 1) lack of knowledge of mental illness identification, 2) unfamiliarity regarding how to access treatment, 3) prejudice against those with mental illness, and 4) expectation of discrimination.[v] Beginning to combat these barriers to proper health care is imperative.
Education is a key component.
Mental health is influenced by a complex interaction of social, environmental, and genetic factors over the lifespan. Mental health or mental illness strongly influence an individual’s ability to successfully perform mental functioning, engage in productive activities, develop and maintain fulfilling relationships with others, adapt to changes, and cope with challenges. Having positive mental health is vital to personal well-being, successful family and interpersonal relationships, and contribution to society. But, there are significant factors compromising mental well-being.
Start by learning the signs and symptoms. Let’s take depression, for example, because it is both prevalent and extremely treatable. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5) criteria for depression diagnosis are as follows:
Deep sadness or emptiness
Apathy or loss of interest
Agitation or slowed physical movements
Weight or appetite change
Lack of concentration
Feeling of worthlessness
If you experience at least five of the nine symptoms for the majority of the time for at least two weeks without recent obvious emotional trauma, you are likely experiencing major depression.
The Patient-Health Questionnaire-9 is another depression self-test that also looks at depression symptoms and is a useful tool for self-assessment. To take this test, visit https://www.depressionthewayout.com/depression-test.
If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from depression or anxiety, it’s time to look at how to combat these illnesses. While it is unreasonable to expect to change the course of past history (abuse, mistakes, etc.), it is absolutely possible to change the present and future.
Admitting that you need to reach out for information is the first step in recovery. This could include an in-home health education program, small-group support such as the community-based Nedley Depression & Anxiety Recovery Program™, or contacting your primary care physician for a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy referral.
Nedley Health Solutions’ in-home Nedley Depression & Anxiety Recovery Program™ basic educational kit is an educational tool that provides information on depression and anxiety as well as evidence-based, wholistic lifestyle interventions that can combat, reduce, and eliminate these conditions.
You may not feel like you can trust a medical professional or really need any help, but mental illnesses are like diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease – they are conditions that can be treated effectively. Healthcare professionals or trained volunteers can provide life-saving resources.
Perhaps you know you need help but cannot afford it. Financially allocating funds for help is not selfish but in fact a gift. In overcoming your illness, you and your family will reap financial reward through improved workplace productivity and fewer days taken off work due to depression.
Maybe you are afraid of the side effects of getting on medication. Medications have their time and place and must be supervised by a physician. While some conditions like schizophrenia and true bipolar require medication for life, others, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, or OCD, respond very well to wholistic lifestyle therapies and cognitive behavioral therapy. Alternative treatments can help reduce or eliminate medications, but never change your medications without consulting your physician first.
Adopting an early-to-bed-early-to-rise schedule, regular meal times, 60 minutes of daily aerobic exercise, plant-based nutrition with foods high in omega-3, tryptophan, tyrosine, and whole grain carbohydrates, contrast showers, sun exposure, limited electronic usage, eliminating social media, gratitude journaling, and practicing the ABCs of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are effective treatments that you can begin today. Download this CBT Worksheet to begin to practice reframing your thoughts.
Perhaps you are afraid of admitting that you need help, but deep down inside you know you need something. I encourage you to #breakthestigma. Share what you’re going through with someone you trust in your life. Seek meaningful, healthy relationships. Begin adopting healthy lifestyle practices into your life today.
Learn how crooked thinking is a cause of so much suffering and how you can change how you feel by changing how you think. Pick up a copy of Telling Yourself the Truth or SOS: Help for Emotions in conjunction with a NDARP Basic Educational Kit.
You are not alone. You can change statistics. If we each seek education for ourselves and begin to implement lifestyle treatments, appropriate therapies, supplements, or medications, and share hope with another person, together we can combat the mental health epidemic.
Education and daring to #breakthestigma is the catalyst to change the world.
Change begins with you.
Change your life.
Change the world.
About the author:
Cami Martin, MPH, is the assistant director for the residential Nedley Depression & Anxiety Recovery Program and the assistant manager for Nedley Health Solutions (NHS) and Nedley Clinic. She also works as the director and trainer for the community-based health education program, Optimize Your Brain™, and a trainer for the 8-week Nedley Depression & Anxiety Recovery Program™. Cami works closely with all NHS programs to continually enhance and expand each program.
[i] Mental Illness. (n.d.). NIMH. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml
[ii] Data and resources. (n.d.). EURO WHO. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/mental-health/data-and-resources
[iii] U.S. Leading Categories of Diseases/Disorders. (n.d.). NIMH. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/disability/us-leading-categories-of-diseases-disorders.shtml
[iv] Reddy M. S. (2010). Depression: the disorder and the burden. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 32(1), 1–2. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.70510
[v] Henderson, C., Evans-Lacko, S., & Thornicroft, G. (2013). Mental illness stigma, help seeking, and public health programs. American journal of public health, 103(5), 777–780. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301056