Research Blog

Mental Illness Falls by the Wayside

Posted on May 27th, 2009

I humbly apologize about the lack of updates lately. I've have been working diligently to keep things updated, but there has been a lot of "life" happening on the home front lately.
One of our members Anne Hargrove has written an excellent article that was recently published in Daily News Journal

"Mental Illness Falls by the Wayside". Her views are so true to our core mission here at everyminute.org. It was dropped from the archives, so she graciously gave me permission to post it here.
Anne has also volunteered to help out with some of the blogging from time to time and I hope to see some more members join in the conversation in the future. I would love to see this site be an open forum for the discussion about peoples views on where we stand with this issue. The direct or indirect affect mental illness has had on peoples lives, and things we can do for our next generation, thus allowing them the opportunity see the writing on the wall. You can also keep up with her personal blog at Anne Hargrove

Michael

Mental Illness Falls by the Wayside

Often, while perusing a myriad of news sources, I run across a health awareness/advocacy piece. Past and still important topics of concern include AIDS, cancer, heart disease and diabetes; It comes as no surprise really, given the provident advance in science and modern medicine, as well as the recent surge in political superiority concerning the health-care issue as opposed to the diseases.

What is appalling, however, is the lack of education and acceptance in connection to mental illness. While it is true that various media outlets have given a brief, and mediocre at best, viewpoint of the issue, it is almost always glamorized by the tragedies bestowed upon others; or it’s in relation to the uninsured. We need to address the real issue, mental illness itself and the ineffable pain it causes the individuals, families, friends, and communities.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health (N.I.M.H.), “An estimated 26.2 percent of adults 18 and older (1 in 4) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder,” and “nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for two or more disorders, with severity strongly related to co-morbidity.” Tennessee is no exception. A survey conducted in 2002 by The National Mental Health Information Center, and provided by StateMaster.com, lists the state of Tennessee at number 16 out of 50 states, with 237,202 residents diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

Even more disturbing than the immense number of people with mental illness is the stigma attached to the disease, which far too often is death. An average of 741 residents die of suicide each year in Tennessee alone, which equals about two suicides per day. Suicide is also the ninth-ranking cause of death in Tennessee. Poisoning, otherwise known as accidental overdose, is the second-leading cause of death in Tennessee, although if half of undetermined intent poisonings were self-inflicted, suicides in this state would rise another 4 percent, according to The Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Mental Health America recently released findings from a study done on public understanding and comfort with mental illness. While the study showed improvement on the knowledge of mental disorders, the social acceptance and support of disorders such as bi-polar, schizophrenia, and major depression fell short in comparison to other diseases such as cancer and diabetes. “The discomfort Americans continue to feel towards people with mental illness is disconcerting. Societal acceptance and support is instrumental in helping individuals and families facing mental health issues recover and enjoy healthy, fulfilling lives in their community,” says Dr. David L. Shern, president and CEO of Mental Health America.

The bottom line is, until we stop ignoring the obvious signs and our society decides to treat the illness as a serious health concern, we will continue to see horrific tragedies such as suicide, overdose and school violence on a regular basis.

When AIDS first surfaced as a health crisis, a term was coined, “Silence equals death.” I find this term more than suitable for the situation at hand. We must embrace this issue in order to better promote a peaceful resolution. We must, or else silence will surely equal more avoidable deaths and destruction.

Anne Hargrove

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