“There is no mental health conversation without the acknowledgement of people with mental illness.” -- Hannah Blum
Today in the U.S. one in five adults – nearly 46 million people – experience mental illness, with one in 25 battling more serious conditions, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Sadly, 17% of youth age six to 17 also suffer from a mental health disorder. Affecting all groups are illnesses related to:
- Substance abuse
The stresses of everyday life, inestimably compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, impact people in every American subgroup. And since neither problem discriminates between its victims, mental illness and homelessness often go hand in hand.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the prevalence of mental issues among U.S. adults during any 12-month period breaks down like this:
- Mixed/multiracial: 27%
- Alaska Native or American Indian: 22%
- Caucasians: 20%
- Hispanic or Latinx: 17%
- African Americans: 16%
- Asians: 15%
The community-based non-profit, Mental Health America, also says that 39% of those identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual reported having a mental disorder in the past twelve months.
Military veterans are another particularly vulnerable group. Thirty percent of active duty and reserve personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan – 730,000 men and women – reportedly have a mental health condition requiring treatment.
If there is a silver lining to this disturbingly dark cloud it’s that, with help, most of those affected can lead productive lives, despite their mental health challenges. Experts estimate that between 70% and 90% of those who seek proper treatment witness a significant reduction in symptoms.
3 Ways You Can Help
- Reduce the Stigma. A stigma is set of negative and often unfair or untrue beliefs that a society or group has about something. The stigma surrounding mental illness includes the false beliefs that if they would only ‘try harder’ affected individuals could control their crippling mental and behavioral disorders. Increasing one’s awareness and empathy – along with learning to discern facts from mistaken assumptions – is the first and best step in de-stigmatizing mental illness.
- Reframe Your Language. When discussing or describing individuals with mental illness, use what the advocacy group, BeVocal, calls ‘non-judgmental, people-first language.’ For example, an alternative to calling someone ‘mentally ill’ might be to say that they are ‘living with a mental health condition.’ Referring to affected people through their personal roles, such as being a teacher, executive or friend, is another way to demonstrate respect and empathy.
- Remember the Impact. When people with a mental condition are labeled or stereotyped, the result is often discrimination, bullying and harassment. In fact, they are ten times more likely to be the target of a violent crime. Such abuse can lead the person to withdraw and avoid seeking treatment or assistance.
Another way to aid those who struggle is to be, get and stay involved with charitable organizations such as those we support, including:
When you purchase our respect-empathy t-shirt we will donate a portion of your sale to one of these groups.