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In a given year, 1 in 5 adults struggle with a mental health disorder in the United States. This corresponds to 43.8 million people or 18.5 percent of the total population. Nevertheless, millions of people are stigmatized, discriminated, and isolated by their families, friends, and even employers because of the widespread myths surrounding mental health. This can make it difficult for a person dealing with a mental illness to recover. It is therefore, indispensable to dispel such myths and provide help to those grappling with a mental health disorder as early diagnosis and intervention can help a person recover completely and lead a normal life.
Read on to find out if certain things believed about mental health are myths or not.
- Myth – Mental illnesses are rare.
Fact – Mental health conditions are more common than one can imagine. With 1 in 5 people being affected by it, 1 in 25 of those affected get a diagnosis of a serious mental disorder that impairs life function in a given year. It can affect anyone irrespective of one’s gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion, and/or income levels.
- Myth – A mental disorder is a consequence of poor parenting.
Fact – Mental illnesses are not a result of poor child-care practices. It is a common affliction that affects 1 in 5 teens and young adults. Mental health is affected by genetics, environment factors, trauma, and so much more.
- Myth – People pretend to have a mental illness.
Fact – No one chooses to have a physical illness. Likewise, no one chooses to have illness like this. The causes behind this is extensively investigated and are genuine. Sometimes, the symptoms of a this might not be visible, however, that does not mean that someone’s condition is not real.
- Myth – Mental health disorders are a result of personal weaknesses.
Fact – Just like any other major physical illness, mental health is also not a result of a person’s character or personal weaknesses. It is caused by genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices. A stressful marriage, job conditions, or strained relationships can make some people more susceptible to this. Biochemical processes, faulty circuits and the structure of the brain may also contribute. Long-term consumption of alcohol or drugs also leads to the development of mental illnesses.
- Myth – You are simply sad, not depressed.
Fact – Depression is not something a person can just get rid of. People often tell the depressed one to cheer up or shake it off. However, it is not just the blues that can be willed away. It is a serious mental health disorder which necessitates medication and therapy for proper management.
- Myth – Medications will help, you do not need therapy.
Fact – People with mental illnesses have different treatment requirements. They cannot be treated with a one-size-fits-all approach. The treatment plan for mental disorders should be customized to suit a person’s requirements and medical history. People usually benefit from a combination of medications, therapy, and self-care. One must talk to a mental health counselor to know about their options.
- Myth – Individuals with mental disorders cannot handle school or work.
Fact – It could be challenging to handle stressful situations for all people, not just for those living with a mental illness. However, people with mental illnesses do have jobs, go to schools, and lead an active life in their communities. And if under treatment, they are usually seen to be doing well.
- Myth – People with mental disorders are dangerous and violent.
Fact – Research has shown that people diagnosed with a mental illness are subjected to violence and crime rather than being violent themselves. The onset of a mental illness is associated with a heightened risk of subjection to violent and non-violent crimes.
- Myth – Only positive thoughts and prayer can heal a mental illness.
Fact – Prayer, positive thinking, and spirituality can be used as effective tools for recovery, however, these are not the only tools. Lifetime recovery can be ensured by integrating these tools with proper medication, therapy, and self-care. For this, one must talk to a licensed mental health therapist or seek treatment in a residential mental health treatment center, if the condition is severe.
- Myth – People with mental illnesses should be kept in institutions.
Fact – People with severe mental illnesses or psychosis need to be institutionalized. The rest can stay in an inpatient mental health treatment center for the period of time of their treatment. With advancement in medical science, it is now possible for people to live with their families, secure a job, have a social life, and live a life well, while still being in treatment. A certified mental health therapist can diagnose the severity of the condition and help one ascertain their options.
Seeking help for mental disorders
Mental illnesses are real and if left untreated, they can affect each and every area of one’s life. They can affect school or work performance, relationships, and can also cause suicidal ideation. Overall, these problems worsen the quality of life. Therefore, it is important to receive a diagnosis and early treatment.
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Half of the children in the United States suffering from any kind of mental disorder remain untreated, revealed a recently published study. The researchers analyzed data gathered from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, a nationwide survey administered to the parents of young adolescents.
The findings revealed that out of the 46.6 million youngsters in the age group of 6 to 18 years, whose parents filled the survey, around 7.7 million teens were suffering from at least one type of mental health issue like anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Also, a year before this survey was conducted, only half of these children received counselling or any kind of treatment offered by a mental health provider.
The survey further showed that the percentage of young teens diagnosed with a mental health disorder and not receiving any treatment from a provider fluctuated extensively between 72.2 percent in North Carolina and 29.5 percent in the District of Columbia. The findings featured in the journal JAMA Pediatrics in February 2019.
What do child and adolescent psychiatrists have to say?
Co- author Mark Peterson, an associate professor at the Michigan University (Medicine) said that he pondered upon the conditions affecting children at a young age in a comprehensive manner. But he was shocked to see such a high percentage of young teens not receiving mental health treatment in the U.S.
However, child psychiatrists did not seem too surprised with the results. Dr. Barbara Robles-Ramamurthy, an adolescent and child psychiatrist at the Long School of Medicine at the University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center, San Antonio, said that unfortunately, this was not news to her. In fact, she was well-versed with the fact that the percentage of young teens with mental illness who remained untreated in the U.S. was quite high.
Explaining further, Dr. Jennifer Mautone, a consulting psychiatrist at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said that the families and the children with mental illness face a number of challenges when it came to accessing mental health treatment services, thus contributing to the high rates of not receiving treatment.
Extreme dearth of mental health providers
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) revealed that the United States was facing an extreme dearth of practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists. According to the available data, there were fewer than 17 health care providers per 100,000 teenagers.
This indicates that a lot of families needed to wait long to receive treatment, which deteriorated the primary mental health condition of the affected child. Also the qualified providers available faced significant challenges while interacting with other existing systems responsible for the care of these children. Some of these systems included the health care, education, child care, and the adolescent judicial system. All these systems were supposed to take care of the child, but none of them interacted with each other, resulting in half-hearted care.
A ray of hope
A lot of pediatric health systems have started integrating mental health services into their practice, to promote timely intervention of mental health services to kids. Even the mental health providers, by integrating themselves with the pediatricians, leverage the already prevalent trust factor of patients and are able to reach out to families in a familiar setting. One such program was the Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids Initiative at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, headed by Dr. Mautone.
In the last two years, this initiative managed to cater to more than 2,500 patients. Robles-Ramamurthy, considered this as a positive breakthrough. Yet there is a lot more to be achieved, she feels. A lot of families still consider the presence of a mental illness in their family as a personal failure and are scared of addressing them because of the fear of the associated stigma. The work towards destigmatizing mental illnesses has really started only a decade back. Another hurdle that the parents face is insurance cover. Some of the teens are covered, while others are not covered adequately.
Teen mental health treatment at ADEONA Healthcare
Mental illnesses, when untreated in young adolescents, pose serious threats to the community, including unemployment, poor performance in school and life in general, and high suicide rates. At ADEONA Healthcare of Rancho San Diego, adolescents aged 12 to 17 receive comprehensive behavioral treatment programs for mental disorders and related issues. The facility offers a combination of individual and group therapies crucial for the successful treatment and recovery from mental disorders.
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