Mental illnesses negatively affect everyone in society

Skylar Saragusa, Reporter

Society is facing one of the biggest pandemics known to Earth, and it’s not COVID-19. Mental illness is one of the leading causes of “disability”, according to the World Health Organization, and it’s greatly impacting our schools and our society. Yet nobody is talking about it.

Mental illness affects people emotionally, psychologically, physically, and socially. There are many types such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative identity disorder, and others. While scientists are continuing to find ways to treat and even cure these illnesses, many people go undiagnosed and are left suffering without knowing why.

According to Mental Health America, about one in five American adults have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year. That means that almost everyone knows or has known someone with a mental illness. Yet, many people are still left without the resources to cope or are judged for these uncontrollable conditions. In 2018 only 43.3 percent of adults with a mental illness received treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. That means that more than half of society is facing a mental illness on their own. Additionally, 11.3 percent of adults with a mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2018, and 60 percent of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist. One of the biggest reasons or excuses people use to neglect treatment is the cost it requires.  Not having a professional nearby makes a difficult step in life that much harder.

In schools, resources for mental health treatment are that much more scarce. According to Counseling Today, “…school funding shortfalls have reduced the number of school counselors, school social workers and school psychologists available to address the emotional and behavioral needs of school-age children.” As a result many children and teens are likely to suffer from a mental health disorder that can worsen. “Mental Illness is now one of the most common childhood diseases and we have no vaccine”, Wendy Smith stated, in a TedTalk in 2017 titled “Mental Health in Middle and Elementary School Students.” The World Health Organization also stated that “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds.” That means that while many students are beginning their high school years, carrying out their classes, doing their homework, enjoying new freedoms, and socializing with friends, some are ending their lives in hopes of freeing themselves from a world that should have been full of opportunities. Those who don’t end their lives carry their struggles into adulthood.

 For those who don’t seem to care or have empathy towards those suffering alone as they think it doesn’t have anything to do with them, it’s important to note the direct effects mental illnesses have on society as a whole. Those who suffer from a mental illness are at risk of developing a drug or alcohol addiction to cope with the mental and physical pain it causes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010, $249 billion were spent due to excessive drinking. Most of these costs “resulted from losses in workplace productivity (72% of the total cost), health care expenses for treating problems caused by excessive drinking (11% of total), law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses (10%), and losses from motor vehicle crashes related to excessive alcohol use (5%).” In drug costs the Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that $193 billion were spent in 2007 due to healthcare, criminal justice, and loss in productivity. Overall, the National Alliance on Mental Illness states that, “Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillon in lost productivity each year.” By providing the education and resources needed to understand and treat mental illnesses at a young age these costs can be cut down and society can function and succeed at a higher level.

One of the main reasons children, teens, and adults may avoid treatment is due to the stigma surrounding it. To some, the idea of seeking help for a possible mental health condition is paralyzing. After all, nobody wants to be seen as “crazy” or “different” even though almost everyone deals with some kind of mental illness. The stigma surrounding mental health is noted as early as 5000 B.C. when, “Asylums. Electro-Shock Therapy. Skull Drills. Pills. Exorcisms. Isolation. Lobotomies” and other forms of torture would be used on patients with mental illnesses, according to History Cooperative. Throughout history, many have advocated for these people, proving these tactics to be damaging and inhumane. In the 19th Century a woman named Dorthea Dix led a reform advocating for the mentally ill after seeing that they were locked in prisons with horrible living conditions. During those time, torture and experimentation were still being used on these patients. 

While torture is no longer inflicted on those who suffer from a mental illness in the United States, the stigma that still stands damages those in need and leaves them hidden in the shadows. Today, many people are mistreated or diminished for having a mental illness, and it makes no sense. The Mayo Clinic lists three possible causes for mental illnesses. These are inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth, and brain chemistry. Additionally, there are risk factors that can predispose people to certain mental illnesses, none of which are by choice. Some could argue that certain risk factors, such as being unable to form healthy relationships, stress, and low emotional support, are by choice. However, it’s important to take into account the different environments and situations people are born into. For example, a child may have few friends or healthy relationships that may lead to depression. However, the child may struggle to find anyone in his schools or classes that gets along with or treats him with respect. A child may also be forced to homeschool, without the parents understanding how that is affecting their child.  Regardless, a child should never be treated differently because of what they are going through. The best way to break this stigma and cut down on suicide rates and serious mental illness is to ensure that each and every person is given the resources and support they need to succeed.