We celebrate and recognize several wonderful things in the United States during the month of May, starting with May Day, which is the first day of May. It is traditionally the day we welcome spring and everything that goes along with it.
We also recognize Cinco de Mayo as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. And, of course, there’s also Mother’s Day, a time to celebrate mothers and recognize their sacrificial and unconditional love.
However, the month of May also recognizes something less popular. It is Mental Illness Awareness Month, and the numbers are staggering. One in five people will suffer with some kind of mental illness in a given year. One in 25 lives with a serious mental illness. That’s approximately 10 million people in the United States.
Despite the stigma of mental illness, approximately one in five people will suffer from some kind of mental illness in any given year, and 50 percent of people suffer from some type of disorder in their lifetime. Despite those numbers, 60 percent of adults and 50 percent of kids 8-15 years old don't get help.
Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14 and 75 percent by the age of 24. Major depression, chronic depression and bipolar disorder are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
Untreated mental illness in a home creates the same type of dysfunction as alcohol or substance abuse within a family. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not possible to cover all types of mental illness (bipolar, schizophrenia, dementia, PTSD, and others) in this short article. So, I’m going to focus on the one we’re most able to do something about.
Approximately 300 million people in the United States suffer with depression. Some depression is situational, connected to grieving the loss of a loved one or some other situation. Some people have chronic depression, and others experience a major depressive episode.
Feeling sad or “blue” doesn’t necessarily mean you are suffering with depression. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the diagnosis of depression means the person has experienced a depressive episode lasting more than two weeks and will have some of the following symptoms:
- Loss of interest or loss of pleasure in all activities
- Change in appetite or weight
- Sleep disturbances
- Feeling agitated or feeling slowed down
- Feelings of low self-worth, guilt or shortcomings
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Suicidal thoughts or intentions
Here are some ways you can begin to help yourself or try to help a loved one who is suffering with depression:
- Talk to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to diagnose depression. He or she will also know of resources (therapists, support groups, etc.) that are available for you.
- Don’t be afraid of antidepressants. They are not a sign of weakness, and they are not addictive. If your doctor recommends them, take them.
- Get help. Therapy and support groups can do wonders for depression.
- If your depression is from the loss of a loved one, find a grief support group such as GriefShare to help you through the grieving process.
- Exercise. Even a short walk each day will help.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, and it will not help with depression.
- Be patient with yourself. It took more than a day to get where you are, and it will take more than a day to get better.
- If you are having suicidal thoughts or have a plan, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.
- If someone you love (especially a teen) is talking about suicide, take it seriously and seek help for them immediately.