Over the past few years, there have been celebrities to share with fans and the rest of the world their struggle with mental illness. Celebrities such as Demi Lovato (bipolar disorder); Leonardo DiCaprio (OCD); Jim Carrey (depression); Carrie Fisher (bipolar disorder); Lady Gaga (PTSD); and Mariah Carey (bipolar) have all opened up to bridge the gap between awareness/acceptance and everyday life. The breaking news about their mental illness also gives credence to the dire need for critical attention to today’s and tomorrow’s mental illness issues globally.
From my point of view
It was in college when this Caucasian female, from a meager background, studying to be a middle school science teacher when bipolar disorder walked unknowingly into her life. Seven years would pass before she would be told she had a mental disorder.
The years living with bipolar have been difficult. Since college, I have had 20 jobs/interviews. Not to mention the strain on my marriage, pressure on friendships, inability to take care of myself not to mention two dogs, a husband and a house. A mental illness wreaks havoc on you as a person, a parent, a child, a spouse, an employee, an employer, the main breadwinner and even your faith.
Do you see a flashing red light indicating critical attention yet?
Mental illness is of epic proportions and it can go one of two ways. Better or worse. One step closer to better is if communities worked with hospitals and treatment facilities. Parents with schools. Schools with legislatures. And you and me with the people around us. Your treatment of people with a mental illness in your neighborhood is just as important as a parent with their child’s school. Every person, mentally ill or not deserves a chance. And the fact that so many of us do not get that chance, stirs this critical attention globally.
Just how bad is it globally?
The World Health Organization together with the World Economic Forum agrees mental illness symbolizes the largest economic burdens of any health issue in the world. In 2010, the cost was $2.5 trillion. In twelve years when it is 2030, the cost will have risen to $6 trillion. Disability and loss of work account for two-thirds of the bill.
Knowledge is power. You can start right where you are. Your school, church, community club, sports team, a blog, whichever, and get the word out concerning mental illness. One of the saddest statistics is the 450 million people worldwide who struggle with mental illnesses. It only gets worse: as much as 60 percent will not receive any form of mental care. In developing countries, 90 percent will receive no type of treatment.
People in developing countries are hit by enormously high treatment cost. Imagine the anti-depressant for your son who was sexually abused by his uncle is now so expensive that it becomes a luxury to purchase – even though, he desperately needs it.
Perpetuating ignorance, stigma, hate and fear
We hear all these statistics while sitting on our comfortable couches at home with the air conditioner cooling to a perfect 70 degrees. You think, “Why should I do anything about this?”
Well, let’s just look locally at your community.
- There are homeless people roaming the street tonight who have undiagnosed schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, etc.;
- In the high school class you teach high school, there are a handful of students who are depressed, paranoid, cutting themselves and cannot control their ADHD;
- There is a police officer in your hometown who suffers from PTSD ever since he saw a 15-year-old boy get shot while on duty. He cannot say anything because he knows the guys and gals would just laugh at him;
Spreading truth instead of perpetuating ignorance, stigma, hate and fear, will get us all closer to accepting a mental illness like we accept lung cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and leukemia. We are all human and deserve to be treated as such
Stigma is undone, by knowledge
Given the above scenarios, I would advocate that more information should be made available to the general public. This information could be disseminated through public service announcements, commercials, sections in the newspaper and magazines. Individuals will go to schools and churches as well as other civic organizations and speak about mental health. Police departments would receive specialized training. We must not forget social media.
I cannot stress enough how imperative it is to educate people about mental illness. There is so much stigma which drives our schools, churches, police departments that it is changing the landscape of mental illness. We need to get the information into the hands of these groups in order to put a stop to the mental illness stigma.
Call to Action
If you have any ideas on how to spread the information on mental health, place it in the comments section down below.