Changing attitudes, changing lives
October 7-13 is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), an opportunity to learn about serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia that affect one in four adults in the U.S. each year.
Mental illness is a medical illness – it does not discriminate. In this election year, it’s worth remembering that mental illness affects Republicans, Democrats and independent voters alike. It’s not a partisan issue, but it does involve every issue from the economy and, budget priorities.
Since 2012, states have cut mental health services by $1.6 billon, at the same time that need has increased. Unemployed people have been four times more likely to report symptoms of severe mental illness than others. Americans who experienced involuntary changes in employment status, such as pay cuts or reduced hours, were twice as likely.
The need also is increasing as our troops return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, some with “hidden wounds.” They must not be forgotten in the years ahead.
Mental illness is common. Of Louisiana’s approximately 4.4 million residents, close to 183,000 adults live with serious mental illness and about 49,000 children live with serious mental health conditions.
Untreated mental illness can have deadly consequences. In fact, in 2006, 492 Louisianans died by suicide. Suicide is almost always the result of untreated or under-treated mental illness.
Nationally, we lose one life to suicide every 15.8 minutes. Suicide is the eleventh-leading cause of death overall and is the third-leading cause of death among youth and young adults aged 15-24.
During the 2006-07 school year, approximately 72 percent of Louisiana students aged 14 and older living with serious mental health conditions who receive special education services dropped out of high school.
But Louisiana’s public mental health system provides services to only 17 percent of adults who live with serious mental illnesses in the state.
Louisiana spent just $61 per capita on mental health agency services in 2006, or $257.3 million. This was just 1.2 percent of total state spending that year.
Treatment works, but only if a person can get it. Early identification of symptoms and treatment results in better outcomes.
During MIAW, let’s all talk with friends and neighbors about mental illness and recovery. It’s an opportunity to learn facts and end myths to help break the stigma and silence that too often surrounds the topic.
By changing attitudes about mental illness, we can change lives.
For more information, visit http://www.nami.org to learn more about mental illness as well as education, support and advocacy programs to help individuals and families affected by mental illness.
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