It isn’t surprising that we have seen an increase in mental health disorders as a society. The emergence of COVID, social isolation and quarantine, and social and political divides has contributed to the increase of stress for many of us.
Society’s increased awareness about mental health and the negative impact it can have on you as an individual, on your family, and on society is helping to reduce the stigma associated with getting help for a mental illness. In observance of National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, this article explores the impact of mental illness as well as ways to get help if you think you may be living with a mental health disorder.
Mental Health by the Numbers
Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with a mental illness. In 2019, over 51.5 million people across the country reported a mental illness, and that number could be even higher in 2021. Research suggests a significant increase in mental health symptoms as a result of COVID-19 and the changes that the pandemic brought about. People report symptoms of anxiety disorder being three times higher post-COVID-19 than before the pandemic, and depression symptoms are four times higher post-COVID.
Additional statistics include:
- 1 in 20 adults in the United States experience a serious mental health disorder.
- 1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences a mental illness.
- Only 45% of adults with a mental illness receive treatment.
- 66% of adults with a serious mental illness receive treatment.
- 17% of youth ages 6-17 years old experience a mental illness.
- 51% of youth (6-17 years old) receive help for their mental illness.
The Impact of Mental Health
Mental illness can have a devastating impact on an individual, family, and societal level, and the consequences can be greater if mental illness is left untreated. Having a mental illness can affect your ability to get out of bed and perform duties at home and work tasks—which, in turn, can lead to bigger problems, such as legal and financial challenges. Studies are starting to shed light on the vast impact untreated mental illness can have.
The impacts of mental illness include:
- An increased risk for cancer, diabetes, and other physical health problems.
- An increased risk of abusing substances; 18.1% of adults with a mental illness also have a substance use disorder.
- 1 out of 8 of all emergency room visits in the country is related to a mental illness.
- Rates of cardiometabolic disease are twice as high in individuals with a serious mental illness.
- 37% of all incarcerated individuals have a diagnosed mental illness.
- 21% of homeless people have a diagnosed mental illness.
- Depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 billion in lost productivity each year.
- Depression is a leading cause of disability across the world.
Warning Signs of Mental Illness
Symptoms of mental illness can vary depending on the person and the type of mental illness that is present. It’s important to understand that your symptoms may look and feel different than other people’s. You may also experience more or fewer symptoms than others.
Some common warning signs of a severe mental illness include:
- Drastic changes in mood and behavior
- Drastic weight loss or weight gain
- Feeling down, sad, and withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Seeing or hearing things that don’t exist
- Severe and risk-taking behaviors such as excessive drug or alcohol use or reckless driving
- Severe difficulty sitting still and focusing
- Severe worry or fear that affects your ability to complete activities of daily living (e.g., eating, showering, taking care of your children)
- Talking, acting, or thinking about harming yourself or taking your life
How to Get Screened for a Mental Illness
Fortunately, increased advocacy efforts are being made to improve access to mental health care. While no urine or blood test can diagnose mental illness, trained professionals can help ascertain whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness.
If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms in someone you love, it’s important to talk to them about what you are noticing in a nonjudgmental way. Let them know that they aren’t alone and that help is available to them.
If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, talk to your doctor. They can provide you with a referral to a licensed mental health provider who can work with you to create an effective treatment plan. Your treatment plan can include psychotherapy, medication, and other alternative services.
If you need help paying for your psychotropic medication, ScriptSave® WellRx can help you save up to 80%. Don’t let your symptoms go untreated; help is available, and effective treatment options for you exist.
Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her M.S. in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.