The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recently reported that “1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.” That is nearly 60 million people; about 30% of the total population that struggles with their mental health. Also, this statistic only covers the adult population. Recognizing the prevalence of mental illness in adults is only the beginning of understanding the need to be a mental health advocate.
The 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that of the adolescents aged 13 to 18 surveyed, “An estimated 49.5% of adolescents had any mental disorder.” Also, “Of adolescents with any mental disorder, an estimated 22.2% had a severe impairment and/or distress.” These statistics are, of course, unfortunate and staggering. They also highlight the need for mental health advocates.
But what is a mental health advocate? A mental health advocate supports and promotes the well-being of individuals with mental health conditions. They work to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and improve access to mental health resources. These individuals have been vital in normalizing the effects of mental health.
Since 1949 in the U.S., the month of May has been used to promote mental health advocacy and awareness. However, Mental Health Awareness Month should be used as a reminder to advocate for individuals struggling with issues of mental health year-round, not merely for 31 days out of the year. Whether it is a close friend, coworker, family member, or the broader community at large, people with mental health struggles need our help and support more than ever.
Additional Statistics on Mental Health
The following are just a few more statistics to highlight the need for mental health care and support. These are some of the most recent mental health care statistics from 2020, according to NAMI:
- Roughly 46% of adults received mental health care
- Of adults suffering from serious mental illness (SMI), roughly 64% received treatment
- Roughly 50% of adolescents aged 6-17 received mental health care
- The average time between the onset of a mental illness and mental health care is 11 years
- Roughly “155 million people live in a designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Area”
These are pre-COVID-19 statistics. It has been widely agreed upon that new sets of data will show marked increases in all of these categories. Of course, COVID-19 isn’t the only reason that inhibits individuals from getting the treatment that they need. Another issue surrounding mental health treatment is stigma.
The Stigmas Surrounding Mental Health
Regarding mental health stigma, there are three types by which all of its forms exist. These include:
- Public stigma
- Institutional stigma
The first type of stigma, public stigma, is probably the most recognizable. Public stigma has to do with the way the community at large treats individuals struggling with issues of mental health. This happens both consciously and subconsciously. A conscious example would be when individuals struggling with mental illness are referred to in a pejorative, such as “wild,” or “that person is unhinged.” An unconscious example would be when someone refers to someone that isn’t struggling with mental illness as exhibiting signs of mental illness, such as referring to someone who is organized as “having OCD.”
Self-stigma is how individuals struggling with mental illness internally shame themselves. This is something that usually stems from exposure to the previously mentioned stigma. Further, the last stigma is institutional stigma. This is when certain policies limit people’s access to quality mental health care. Institutional stigma goes back to that mental health professional shortage statistic mentioned earlier. The good news is that we can all play a part in refusing these stigmas by becoming mental health advocates.
The Phoenix Recovery Center and the Need to Be a Mental Health Advocate
Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we understand the challenges that individuals struggling with mental illness and their families face every day. We also understand the feeling of not knowing what the first step is in getting a loved one the help they need. We want individuals to know that we are here to help them take that first step.
One of the best ways to help an individual struggling with mental illness is to reach out to a professional on their behalf. These professionals can help guide them through the next right steps. For example, they may be able to guide a person toward a recovery center that focuses specifically on the symptoms they are describing. They may also be able to guide them toward a recovery center that best fits their financial and/or insurance situation. Just remember, reaching out to get information does not mean that a person must make any decisions. An individual and their loved ones can work together to determine the best next steps.
Don’t let the idea of doing too much or not doing enough limit your potential for becoming a mental health advocate. Everyone can make a difference. Sometimes the best thing a person can do is be there for someone that needs to talk or needs a shoulder to lean on. Other times it may just be that someone is available to make those hard, sometimes scary, phone calls for help. Just remember, any step forward is a positive one, and not just in May, but all year long. The Phoenix Recovery Center is here to help.
For more information on how to be a mental health advocate, and the treatment options available for mental health recovery, please call The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.