Read This if You Think Mental Health Is a Joke
Let me prove you wrong.
According to Statistics Canada, as of 2014, over 2,300,000 people were diagnosed with a mood disorder (1). That's approximately 6.3% of the population. The CMHO states that as many as 1 in 5 children and youth in Ontario alone will experience some kind of Mental Health problem, with 70% of cases having an onset during adolescence or childhood (2).
The CMHA even states that by age 40, a whopping 50% of the population will have suffered from some kind of mental illness and 90% of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness (3). Those statistics are simply insurmountable!
Yet, many individuals across Canada will still claim that mental illness is an 'excuse' or a 'joke' or just a way to 'seek attention.' If you are one of those people, my goal in this small report is to change your mind, so please continue reading.
Mental illness can occur from a variety of factors. Genetic involvement, for example, giving us the predisposition chemically and physically to develop a disorder such as manic depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. In many instances, there really is nobody to blame for the onset of a disorder. Saying that it was still the individual's fault that they 'contracted' ADHD is complete and utter codswallop. I believe that I speak for many people who are struggling with a genetic disorder, when I say that if there was an alternative choice to seeing the onset, they would take it. Electrical impulses and chemical signals are sent across the brain, and these are received by synapses and receptors. We see a mental disorder, such as depression, when this process isn't working properly. To fix this, either rehabilitative therapy or medication is prescribed because the brain just isn't functioning normally. So sure, it's all in our head, but not in the way the expression is normally said (4).
Disorders can easily stem from the environment that you are in as well. If, for example, you are in an extremely physically abusive environment, it is not uncommon for you to later develop symptoms of a mental illness such as Battered Person Syndrome, Anxiety, Agoraphobia, or depression. Physical abuse is known to take a massive toll on how you perceive yourself and the world around you, and there's just no doubting that. Just imagine coming home from work and being scared beyond belief because your husband/wife was waiting for you in the kitchen with a rolling pin, and you knew what that meant. ONE THIRD of Canadians have suffered child abuse, one third! A study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that states that 32% of Canadians have experienced sexual or physical abuse while they were young. All types of child abuse are directly linked to mental disorders, specifically suicidal thoughts and attempts. And to top that all off, 14.4% of female children have experienced sexual abuse, versus 5.8% of males. Those numbers are massive, and there is no denying it (5). Now when I say environment, I don't just mean for abuse victims. Environment can be anything from being a child in a disbelieving household, where you are terrified to come to your parents about your possible mental health issue, so you hide it away instead, therefore only to allow it to manifest. Environment could be being an adult and moving across the country away from all your loved ones for work and having absolutely nobody to talk to in your new 'home.' Environment could be being bullied in school, or being terrified to come out as a homosexual at work even.
Now for the topic that really grinds my gears to disbelievers. Eating disorders. Specifically, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. There are shows about them, people who idolize anorexic or bulimic people, website dedicated to helping these people, forums, chatrooms, magazines, calorie counters, weight loss websites, tumblr accounts, you name it. These two diseases are killing people, very slowly. Anorexia Nervosa cases are found in predominately females, the cases being 90% female and 10% male. Let's just sarcastically speculate on why that is, shall we? Hm, maybe the media has something to do with it? All of the super skinny models in magazines and on runways, in advertising in malls or stores, catalogues or brochures. Maybe, just maybe, that has something to do with the onset of obsessive weight loss for bulimics and anorexics. Anorexia can stem from a cornucopia of factors, the increased risk genetically, personality variables like perfectionism, or other disorders in conjunction. It's characterized by an obsession with maintaining a terribly underweight BMI, but still perceiving themselves as fat despite this. These individuals will work out to burn off the calories intaken, whether that be running or sit ups, and will keep crazy-accurate track of what they have consumed. Relapse rates are 35%, but 5%-20% of cases will die because of this illness, (6).
Bulimia Nervosa on the other hand, is characterized by over-eating (a "binge") and then ridding the body of everything taken in (a "purge") by mainly vomiting or taking laxatives. It has been proven that being overweight as a child or adolescence or predisposition for obesity can both play a role in the onset of this illness. These sufferers can have a history of abuse, depression, anxiety, perfectionism, OCD, peer pressure and low self-esteem as well (6).
Both disorders are extremely dangerous to the suffer's organs and their remaining mental health.
In summary, if you still don't believe me that mental health isn't a joke, let me grab you with one last statistic: "14.3% of deaths worldwide, or approximately 8 million deaths each year, are attributable to mental disorders (7)." Now for the big punch in the gut - approximately 7.6 million people die from cancer in a year, (8). So let me leave you with a question. If you can take cancer so seriously, then why can't you take mental health seriously? It kills more people per year than cancer, Dear God people wake up!
Moral of this story:
If someone has depression, don't tell them to 'just be happy;
if someone has an eating disorder, don't tell them to 'just eat already'
If someone has agoraphobia, don't tell them to 'just walk through that huge crowd'
If someone has OCD, don't tell them to 'just quit counting stuff already!'
Maybe, just maybe, try to understand what they're going through first, and get them the help that they need and deserve. We live in an amazing country with many many resources available to us. And never, ever think that mental illness is a joke again.
- Canada, G. O. (2016, March 07). Mood disorders, by age group and sex (Number). Retrieved August 26, 2017, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/health113a-eng.htm
- Key Facts & Data Points, CMHO. Retrieved August 26, 2017, from https://www.kidsmentalhealth.ca/education-resources/facts-figures
- Fast Facts about Mental Illness. (n.d.). Retrieved August 26, 2017, from http://www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/#.WaG9liiGPIU
- Organization, W., Murthy, R., Bertolote, J., Epping-Jordan, J., Funk, M., Prentice, T. and Saraceno, B. (2001). new understanding, new hope. France: The World Health Organization.
- Boesveld, S. (2014). One-third of Canadians have suffered child abuse, highest rates in the western provinces, study says. [online] National Post. Available at: http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/one-third-of-canadians-have-suffered-child-abuse-highest-rates-in-the-western-provinces-study-says [Accessed 26 Aug. 2017].
- Statcan.gc.ca. (2017). Section D - Eating disorders. [online] Available at: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-619-m/2012004/sections/sectiond-eng.htm [Accessed 26 Aug. 2017].
- Walker ER, McGee RE, Druss BG. Mortality in Mental Disorders and Global Disease Burden Implications: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015 Feb 11. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.2502. [Epub ahead of print]
- Worldcancerday.org. (2017). World Cancer Day 2013 - Global Press Release | WCD. [online] Available at: http://www.worldcancerday.org/world-cancer-day-2013-global-press-release [Accessed 26 Aug. 2017].