Mental Health Awareness Month is an annual campaign taking place in May to bring consciousness to mental illnesses, preventions, treatments, and educating the public around mental stigmas. Common mental illnesses include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, attentive deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder.
Mental health focuses on an individual’s psychological, emotional, and overall social well-being. Today more than ever, the pandemic has placed a huge toll on people’s mental health. Due to the current environment, the economy, and the work-life balance completely altered out of the blue, the importance of taking the time to cherish and protect our mental health has become a priority.
Mental health can affect everyone, ranging from children to elders. It can impact individuals in different ways such as the way we think, feel or act. Based on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 51.5 million (20.6%) American adults experience a form of mental illness. Mental disorders affect younger generations more than adults. Based on NAMI, 1 in 6 in children ages 6-17 develop a mental disorder, while 1 in 20 adults develop a mental related illness during their lifetime.
Adolescence can be a difficult time for anyone, as teens begin to learn more about themselves, start to socialize, experience body and emotional changes, and continue developing their brains. Environmental and societal factors can have a significant impact on our mental health as well, as 50% of lifetime mental disorders begin by the age of 14, but most are undetected until later times.
Health Direct states that there are over 300 mental health disorders listed in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Some of the most common forms of mental illnesses include anxiety disorders, depressive disorder, eating disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and an autism spectrum disorder.
Anxiety disorder relates to an individual’s feeling of extreme fear and worries, separate from common stressful events such as job interviews or public speaking. Although an anxiety disorder can accelerate the stress in such events, it can occur during everyday tasks and affect one’s daily activities.
Within the anxiety category falls other disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is the most common mental health illness in the United States with over 40 million (18.1%) adults diagnosed with it. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, many individuals suffering from anxiety do not receive help because they pass it off as a common form of stress due to their jobs, school, and environments. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable through doctor visits, counseling, and medications, but only 36.9% of people diagnosed with it actually receive help.
Clinical depression manifests itself as a persistent low mood, low energy, or lack of interest in activities. Depression can impact daily activities and can affect individuals without seeming ‘sad’ to the world. Similar to anxiety, depression can be treated through counseling and medication. Depression is also the leading cause of suicide rates in the United States with an estimated 60% of suicides being linked to depression.
Based on the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), clinical depression affects about 17.3 million (7.1%) American adults each year. As of 2019, there were around 264 million people suffering from depression around the world. From the 264 million people, women were affected at higher rates than men, and depression was highest among young adults ages 18-25.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a big role in people’s mental health, as individuals reported feeling depressed and anxious after losing jobs, financial losses, or the inability to leave their homes. During the pandemic, 4 out of 10 adults reported having symptoms of a depressive disorder or anxiety, up from 1 in 10 from the previous year.
Eating disorders are psychological illnesses affecting an individual’s eating habits and their relationship to food and body. Symptoms include obsession with body image, lack of eating, overeating, or purging. Eating disorders can affect anyone including women, men, children, adolescents, athletes, actors, and more.
Eating disorders are emotionally and physically harmful to one’s health. They often coexist with anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Within the eating disorder category are multiple disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, rumination, and pica eating.
John Hopkins Medicine states that 30 million Americans develop a form of eating disorder. Out of the individuals affected by the illness, 95% are between ages 12 to 25. Although anyone can develop eating disorders, societal values have placed higher pressure on women’s bodies to look a certain way, causing disorders and body image dysmorphia.
A study reported by NCBI looked at gender differences in eating disorders. From their sample, more men reported overeating, while women endorsed loss of control while eating. At the same time, more women reported checking their bodies, fasting, binge eating, vomiting, and avoidance.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder usually begins during childhood and persists through adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. It is often hard to detect among children as it is often confused with them having lots of energy.
The CDC informs that ADHD is among the most common form of mental disorder among children with 9.4% diagnosed between ages 2 to 17. Out of the children who have ADHD, 60% still exhibit symptoms during adulthood. Within the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder category, there are multiple disorders, including an attentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type, or a combination of both. While some may confuse ADD and ADHD, attention deficit disorder does not include hyperactivity.
An individual with bipolar episodes will experience occurrences of energized happy moods, followed by episodes of depression. Bipolar disorder is often misconstrued with depression due to its low mood periods. The main difference between the two mood disorders is that depression does not have a period of extreme happiness and energy.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance state that 5.7 million (2.6 %) of United States adults have bipolar disorder, out of which 83% are severe cases. The disorder has the highest heredity outcomes as children with one bipolar parent have a 15 to 30% chance of developing the illness themselves. Having both parents with the disorder raises the child’s changes between 50 to 70%. Similar to other mental disorders, living with bipolar disorder is manageable. Seeking treatment and counseling can help cope with the illness and lessen symptoms throughout the lifetime.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder affecting a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. Much as other mental illnesses, the cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but can emerge from certain environmental factors, genetics, or chemical imbalances.
Schizophrenia affects over 20 million people worldwide. The illness is higher among Americans (1.2%) than the worldwide demographic (1%).
Many individuals are not diagnosed with schizophrenia until after experiencing a ‘psychotic break’. Symptoms include changes in sleeping and eating patterns, self-care, confusion, lack of energy, out-of-ordinary thinking, changes in daily performance, and unusual behavior.
Mental Help illustrates a different peak of vulnerability among men and women developing schizophrenia. Men are most vulnerable at younger ages between 18 to 25, while women have two stages, one between the ages of 25 to 30 and another after the age of 40. Although anyone can develop schizophrenia, new studies are illustrating higher rates of teenagers developing the disorder, between ages 16 to 25.
Such as other mental illnesses, there is currently no cure for schizophrenia, but the disorder can be manageable. The World Health Organization states that 69% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia are not receiving the proper care, while 90% live in low and middle-income countries. With counseling and treatment, many individuals can learn to live with the mental illness or become symptom-free.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism spectrum disorder refers to a wide variety of conditions related to the development of social skills, verbal and nonverbal communication, and behavior. Autism has multiple subtypes affecting people’s different behavioral abilities.
Autism evolves during the developing stage of a child. In most instances, babies develop symptoms before the age of 1, but a diagnosis is not usually done until 2 years of age. The Center for Disease and Prevention states that 1 in 54 children develop autism in the United States. During their first few months, boys are 4 times more likely to have autism than girls.
Living with autism can be manageable and differs based on the subtype.
You Are Not Alone
While a significant number of Americans develop mental illnesses, and numerous more are undiagnosed, many do not have easy access to the treatment needed. Based on the information presented by NAMI, 55% of the counties in the United States do not have a single practicing psychiatrist.
Mental health can manifest differently in different people or depending on the illness. Some symptoms of mental illnesses include sleeping more or less than usual, experiencing extreme emotions, feeling numb, sad, or on the edge, arguing more, pulling away from close ones, eating more or less than usual, abusing drugs, having low energy, harmful thoughts, or the inability to perform daily tasks.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, Topic Insights encourages you to pay close attention to the importance of your mental health. Taking good care of yourself and those around you will help create a happier society for all of us to live in.
If you or a loved one have experienced a mental health disorder, please seek help from the following hotlines, consultations and organizations. Individuals are encouraged to visit the website, call, text or chat 24/7. You are not alone.
National Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health: 1(800) 622-4357
National Suicide Prevention Line: 1(800) 273-8255
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Hotline: (800) 950-6264 or firstname.lastname@example.org
National Eating Disorder Association Helpline: 1(800) 931-2237
ANAD Eating Disorder Helpline: (888) 375-7767