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In contrast to physical health, mental health does not have the same clarity of disease as breaking a bone, rupturing an artery, or having a viral infection. No – mental health is more…well, mental. It’s more in our heads, in our minds, and in the processes we use to think about things like mental health in the first place.
But despite its lack of clarity, mental health is a real thing nevertheless. For example, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has noted that: “Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness.” See: NIMH
But it’s not just depression that is at issue. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), It’s not uncommon for someone with depression to also suffer form an anxiety disorder or vice versa. Further:
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).
- Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.
So, bottom line is that mental health issues like excessive anxiety and depression are no joke – either at a personal level or at the macro level of the US healthcare system.
But while millions of people suffer from mental health issues, it is also noted above that millions of suffering people are left undiagnosed and untreated.
So what should we do? How can we significantly improve our ability to help people in need of mental health treatment?
What should we do about the stigma that some attach to seeing a mental health professional?
What about the equal stigma of being labeled as someone who is “mental?”
How do we, as healthcare professionals, best reach out to those that desperately need assistance –without making anyone think we are looking for “crazy” people?
Overall – what is the best way to address the large and underserved need for mental health care?