Today is World Mental Health Day which is also part of World Mental Health week. Unlike other medical conditions many mental illnesses are almost invisible to the untrained eye, one can find compassion for someone who is stooped over with MS or in a cast whereas someone labelled with a mental disorder is not seen as ill or as worthy of our compassion. Don’ t kid yourself these people are still being treated unfairly in our society. They are viewed as freaks or people to be feared.
I worked with many people over the years with a variety of mental disorders and there is still a stigma attached to these people. They are often mocked, made to feel lesser than or even worse, often misdiagnosed or completely passed over by the medical system. A client is diagnosed as being bipolar, and almost immediately people envision the personality of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Some people have been suffering with chronic pain or battling cancer and become depressed then seek help for their depression. Others do not have access to adequate medical care and sometimes end up homeless and they too are labelled as drunks, bums, etc.
Mental illness is not a joking matter as the statistics will show you below:
One in five adult Canadians (21.3 percent) will suffer a mental disorder in their lives. This figure translates into 4.5 million people. Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common. Approximately 2.5 million Canadian adults or over 10% of the population 18 and older will have a depressive disorder. (1,2 ).
What are the chances of recovering from mental illness?
Most people with mental illness recover well and are able to lead fulfilling lives in the community – when they receive appropriate ongoing treatment and support. However, only 43% of depressed adults seek care from a health professional. (3)
Is mental illness life-threatening?
Mental illness itself is not life-threatening. However, more than 90% of people who take their lives have a diagnosable mental disorder commonly a depressive disorder or substance abuse disorder. (4 )
In 1999 there were 449 suicide deaths in Alberta, a 7.7% increase from 1998. Canada-wide, suicide is the leading cause of death for all males between 10 and 49 and the fourth leading cause for women. Suicide is the leading cause of death in Alberta among males ages 10 to 49 and the third most common among males ages 10 to 65. Alberta’s suicide rate is the second highest in Canada after Quebec. (5).
The number of attempted suicides is estimated to be in the thousands and for every completed suicide there are hundreds of self inflicted injuries. Over 400,000 Canadians deliberately harm themselves every year. (6)
Four times as many men than women commit suicide however, women attempt suicide 2-3 times as often as men. (5)
Suicide is not the answer but to those that try to take their own lives it could very well be because they felt they had nowhere to turn.
Maybe as a society we can try to understand mental illness better and be more compassionate to those who are suffering. It doesn’t take a great deal of time to talk to a friend you may suspect is depressed or to listen to what others are going through. Encourage and support them to seek help and let them know we care.
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1. Bland, RC, Orn H, Newman SCLifetime Prevalence of Psychiatric Disorders in Edmonton. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 1988: 77 (suppl 338): 24-32.
2. Zoutis P, Ontario Mental Health Statistical Sourcebook Volume 1: An investigation into the Mental Health Supplement of the 1990 Ontario Health Survey Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division 1999.
3. Murray CJL, Lopez AD, eds Summary: The global burden of disease: a comprehensive assessment of mortality and disability from diseases, injuries and risk factors in 1990 and projected to 2020. Cambrige MA: published by the Harvard School of Public Heath on behalf of the World Health Organization and the World Bank, Harvard University Press, 1996.
4. Moscicki EK, Epidemiology of Suicide , Harvard Medical School Guide to Suicide Assessment and Management (40-51) Jossey-Bass Publishers 1999.
5. Leading Causes of Death in Canada 1997 (Statistics Canada Cat No. 84F0503-XPB).
6. Offord DR, Boyle MH, Szatmari P, et al. Ontario Health Study ll: Six month prevalence of disorder and rates of service utilization. Archives of General Psychiatry, 1989, 44: 1069-1078.