MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Mental illness carries a burden
Most people believe mental illness is not too common.
Most people believe it happens in other peoples’ families.
Most people believe mental illness is a matter of weak will or character flaws.
And, do you know what?
Most people are wrong.
What disease do you think causes the highest burden of disease in the developed world?
According to the World Health Organization, it is depression.
According to household surveys in the US, 6.7 per cent of adults experienced a major depressive episode in the past 12 months.
That does not include more mild depressions or the ones never diagnosed.
As a group, anxiety disorders are the most-common class of mental disorders.
When you add up all the types of anxiety disorders (like panic disorder, generalized-anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and separation-anxiety disorder), the estimated lifetime prevalence of an anxiety disorder is more than 15 per cent, while the 12-month prevalence is more than 10 per cent.
That means, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC), at any given time, 27 per cent of the population — more than one in four — suffers from these two mental-illness conditions alone and there are many more to talk about.
Bipolar disorder affects about four per cent of the population, but the hospitalization rate of people with bipolar is about 40 per cent, compared to the rate of 4.5 per cent for people with other mental or behavioural disorders.
That makes bipolar disorder the most-expensive behavioural-health issue in North America — and that is without even considering the money losses from missed days of work.
By comparison, schizophrenia affects about one per cent of the population, but 10 per cent of people with schizophrenia will attempt suicide.
This adds to the hospital and emergency-service burden and places a heavy load on family members.
The growing menace in the mental-health world is Alzheimer’s disease, currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause among persons age 65 years and older.
More than five-million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to more than double by the year 2050, as the population ages.
So, if you are among those who believe mental illness is not common or if you think the rates of mental illness are exaggerated, you are not paying attention to Health Canada, the CDC or the World Health Organization.
Worst of all, you are not paying attention to the people who live and work around you because people with mental illnesses are everywhere and could benefit from our understanding, awareness and support.
Pay attention to the stresses, strains, struggles and forces brought to bear in your own life that can impact on mental health.
Never take your mental health for granted.
Write to us at Kamloops@cmha.bc.ca and let us know what you think and would like to know more about. The chances are, the question you are thinking about is on the minds of hundreds of others too shy to ask.