Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bringing it into the light...

I've contemplated over the last few weeks and even months how to address something in my own life.  Each month brings new "awareness" days...to the point they're almost becoming clichè. Are we really bring awareness to all of the causes we are so passionate about, or are we just slapping a name on a day, wearing a specific color, and changing our Facebook profile picture without bringing the slightest bit of actual awareness. For that matter, are we talking about the statistics of each thing we are bringing awareness to? Are we becoming aware and then doing nothing about it?

There is one day and one month and one week that seems to be skipped over. That is, bringing awareness to mental health. It's taboo to talk about mental health. People tip-toe around the topic. The thing is, no matter how much people avoid it, it is real.
October was National Mental Health Screening month, and in just over a week it is World Suicide Survivor's day (November 19). Yes, I know these dates.Yes, I know they exist. Just as we talk about breast cancer and we raise money and awareness to find a cure, we should be doing the same for mental health. Why? Well, let's talk about some statistics.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Anxiety is the most common mental illness in America, with over 40 million adults (age 18 and up), or 18 percent of the population diagnosed with anxiety. Note, I said adults, and note I said diagnosed. Children suffer from anxiety as well, and many go undiagnosed.

It's not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population.
Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.

Panic Disorder
6 million, 2.7%
Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
Very high comorbidity rate with major depression.

Social Anxiety Disorder
15 million, 6.8%
Equally common among men and women, typically beginning around age 13.
According to a 2007 ADAA survey, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.

Specific Phobias
19 million, 8.7%
Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
Typically begins in childhood; the median age of onset is 7.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are closely related to anxiety disorders, which some may experience at the same time, along with depression.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
2.2 million, 1.0%
Equally common among men and women.
The median age of onset is 19, with 25 percent of cases occurring by age 14. One-third of affected adults first experienced symptoms in childhood.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
7.7 million, 3.5%
Women are more likely to be affected than men.
Rape is the most likely trigger of PTSD: 65% of men and 45.9% of women who are raped will develop the disorder.
Childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of lifetime likelihood for developing PTSD.
Major Depressive Disorder
The leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3
Affects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5
More prevalent in women than in men.
Persistent depressive disorder, or PDD, (formerly called dysthymia) is a form of depression that usually continues for at least two years.
Affects approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. (about 3.3 million American adults).
The median age of onset is 31.1

These are just SOME of the statistics,  and SOME of the many categories of mental illness was. It is not a made up problem, it should not be so Taboo.
Why am I so passionate about this being recognized?
Because I am these statistics, and have been for as long as I remember. I am the one with an anxiety disorder, I am the one with OCD, I am the one with bipolar depression, and I am the one with an abandonment disorder that is closely related to PTSD. 
I am the one who at one point in my life believed that life wasn't worth living. I am the one who has to take medicine to function,  and to sleep. I'm the one who has to convince myself that going outside of my house will be worth it,  and I have to prepare myself to socialize.
I am the one who cannot handle change without being prepared, and the slightest kink in my plans or routine can send me into a panic.
I love with it on a daily basis. I have learned to function, I am learning to live. I have learned to prepare myself to socialize, and to step outside of my comfort zone.
I have continuous conversations with people who should understand me about how I take medicine because mental illness needs to be treated in the same way as any other illness. It affects my health. It affects how I physically feel, and if left untreated could be just as bad as an illness that is seen. 
I'm not the only one.
There are important people in my life who struggle daily with the same things.
Medicine is advancing in this area, but people's knowledge of it is still outdated.
I dream of seeing a day where people can admit to having a problem and of openly being able to go to therapy and be in medicine without the fear of judgment.
Spread the awareness about THIS!
Make it less taboo.
Help people see it is okay to admit to needing help.
The more people who would just admit to needing to talk to someone and being willing to accept help, the closer we would come to understanding mental illness.