The month of May happens to be an important one here at Mozzaz, as it is Mental Health Awareness Month! The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has tons of information to get people in the know and to increase awareness on a topic that affects so many of our loved ones. According to a 2012 study, nearly 1 in 5 Americans have a diagnosable mental disorder, and nearly 1 in 25 have a serious functional impairment due to a mental illness. Mental disorders can have an impact at any age— 1 in 5 of children ages 13-18 have one that is seriously debilitating!
The spectrum of mental disorders is a wide one that can be measured in many different ways. The Global Burden of Disease study assigned a single disability number to each of 291 conditions and injuries. This measuring tactic uses disability-adjusted life years (DALY score) to combine years of life lost to premature mortality and years lost to disability attributable to each condition. From this study, it was shown that brain disorders represent nearly 20% of disability from all causes; making them the largest source of DALYs in the U.S.
What about when mental disability leads to something with a dangerous, tragic impact? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an astounding 41,149 individuals committed suicide in the U.S. in 2013. This rate has unfortunately not decreased over the past two decades in contrast to other rates of mortality. It’s proven to be a clear epidemic among young people, as suicide was the second highest cause of death for young adults ages 15-34. Even if the individual doesn’t turn to suicide, the median reduction in life expectancy among those with mental illness is 10.1 years. A full 8 million deaths that occur each year globally could be averted if those people were to die at the same rate as the general population!
So much of our health care expenditures are directly linked to spending on mental illness treatment… much more than one would imagine! The World Economic Forum gathered data in 2010 to how that mental disorders account for $2.5 trillion global costs in 2010 and will rise to $6 trillion by 2030. These costs were greater than the costs of diabetes, respiratory disorders, and cancer combined!
Of course, the astounding amounts spent on health care go towards a good cause. For majority of those who suffer from various mental disorders, there is hope in terms of treatment. For example, 85% of patients who are severely depressed respond to electroconvulsive therapy or ECT. For those with schizophrenia, approximately 25% experience good recovery and 50% show improvement over a 10-year-period. Numbers like these prove that even among those at highest risk for suicide, prevention and treatment save lives.
In conclusion, too few people receive optimal care for mental illnesses and don’t consider their severity. For some it’s a matter of denying their illness, but others have certain conditions that prelude them from seeking care. Mental illness doesn’t just affect the person, but the daily lives and stresses of their family members. Although we currently have a variety of resources to help those in need, what we have isn’t nearly enough. Both the facts and personal stories of families and individuals affected by mental illness complete the picture of why finding ways to prevent and treat mental illness is such an urgent need.