It seems that lately you can’t pick up a magazine or newspaper or turn on the radio without there being an article or story with a mental health focus. Many have the ‘out of the darkness and into the light” type flavour.
If only there were more light in which to emerge.
One in three Canadians will experience some sort of mental health problem at some point in their life. Only 9.2 per cent of individuals between the ages of 15-24 will reach out, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). Suicide is also the second leading cause of death in this age group.
Twenty per cent of those admitted in a 2003-2004 study indicated that those admitted to hospital with a mental health disorder had problems with substance abuse.
While the MHCC is working to implement a mental health strategy for healthcare across the country, some of their goals are loftier, and include the reframing in thought of an entire nation. The goals place focus on recovery, prevention, accepting and adequate response from health care. The underlying thread here is that a more regimented system may lower stigma. Until the term ‘all in your head’ is phased out of our mindsets, this is something that will continue to exist.
The prevalence and acceptance of depression and other mental illness as illness and not simply a character flaw, personality trait or disposition are slowly being accepted by the masses. But increased awareness and acceptance come more questions. Why are we only realizing this now, and, why are so many people depressed?
A 2008 study conducted for Research data centre network stated that depression was the single leading cause of disability in the year 2000 according to the World Health Organization.
A recent radio program featured a pediatrician who treated young children with mental health issues, and also faced his own battle with bi-polar disorder and several episodes that left him functionally crippled. He said something to the effect of, “If one in five patients that needed a knee replacement received that replacement, there would be uproar.’
Depressive episodes, which mark the point where the illness reaches its peak, can be triggered by stressful events in life. The study also noted that compared to the past, more people are being treated for depression than ever. Our ever changing work environment has one employee looking after the tasks that used to be devoted to several. This carries over into our personal lives. Children, houses, vacations, organization, possessions—we expect perfection of ourselves more than others.
Between 1994 and 2000, anti depressant and SSRI use more than doubled. While the pills are more available, access to psychotherapy, cognitive therapy and other treatments have remained the same—relatively difficult to access and underfunded.
We may think that in a relatively democratic society that we’re past prejudice, past judgment and ignorance. Maybe this year, with increased focus and understanding, our words will match intentions.