We have a problem in the world today. Besides the obvious like racism, sexism, climate change, wealth inequality, and poverty, it’s time we start having a conversation about mental health.
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year.
- Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
- Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.
- Just over half (50.6%) of children with a mental health condition aged 8–15 received mental health services in the previous year.
- Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
- Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
- Over one-third (37%) of students with a mental health condition age 14–21 and older who are served by special education drop out — the highest dropout rate of any disability group.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10–34.
- More than 90% of people who die by suicide show symptoms of a mental health condition.
- Each day an estimated 18–22 veterans die by suicide.
If these numbers scare you, join the club. These are statistics just from the United States. Mental health is a critical issue and needs to addressing immediately all over the world.
This is a crisis!
Experience drives fear
I care about these issues because I am on the inside of the mental health system and understand that this problem is far worse than anyone can imagine. I’ve seen first-hand the overworked and underpaid mental health service providers. I’ve visited the overbooked and stressed-out psychiatrists and therapists in two countries.
If you spend any amount of time navigating the hoops and roadblocks in the overextended framework of care, you would find out just how broken the whole arrangement is. It’s so dysfunctional that people who do reach out for help aren’t getting the quality of care they need.
Wonder no further why the suicide rate is so high.
I’ve been turned away from a hospital because there are no more beds. I’ve suffered without medication because there was no more money available in my account. I’ve considered suicide instead of getting help because the process to get care is difficult.
The worst thing that ever happened to be me was in 2002. Instead of killing myself, I asked my parents to take me to a hospital. Once there, instead of receiving care, they locked me in a small, dark, urine-soaked room with 20 other disturbed people for 6 hours because they didn’t have the staff to handle us. They wouldn’t let anyone leave either after they decided you were a danger to yourself and others.
We had no water and were given no trips to the bathroom, which is why the floors and walls of the room were being used as a toilet. When a resident finally examined me, I was admitted, but there were no beds. They locked me alone in a ward with criminals and violent schizophrenics. I didn’t sleep at all because I had my life threatened repeatedly, and when I complained and asked that I be moved somewhere safe, they locked me in a small room the size of a closet and restrained me.
Imagine the pain and the fear I felt. As I sit here writing this now, I am having a panic attack, and tears are streaming from my eyes.
I have to stop for a minute.
(After a half-hour of panic and crying, I convinced myself that I could actually finish this story. I promise I’m okay. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written about. Bear with me if I seem shaken)
This is not a unique situation. This happens all the time to people like me. A week after I left the hospital, six nurses aides held a young woman down naked in the shower. She died of a heart attack. They closed the hospital for a year and reopened under new management.
When we ask for help, we are either abused or ignored. No, it doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens a lot. We need to stop making excuses for the big corporations and their habit of putting money over the needs of very sick people. We need to stop giving governments a pass when they cut funding.
People are dying, and they don’t care.
We need to talk about this
As a mental health advocate, this is the reality I deal with every day. I’m talking about it now, and you may be hearing about it everywhere else because May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We should have discussions about this every day, but right now is a great time because it’s in front of everyone’s mind.
Whether you have a mental health issue or not, this is a conversation we need to have. As writers and social media users, we need to get people talking. It’s great that we all are telling our stories on Medium, but we need to do more.
We need to be publishing, tweeting, posting, and commenting about what is going on, not just in the United States, but everywhere.
Veterans are dying. Regular people like you and I are dying every day because they are afraid to ask for help, or they do ask for help and get abused by the system.
I ask, at least for May, that everyone become a mental health advocate.
You don’t have to take to the streets, although it might help. Use your talent as a writer to talk about mental health. Tell your story. Tell someone else’s story. Share your feelings with the world and get people buzzing about what’s happening today.
It doesn’t matter if you aren’t mentally ill. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you can make a difference. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have 10k followers on Twitter. We need to be talking about mental health!
We need to burn up our social media channels until the politicians and people in power have no choice but to listen!
We need to show the people who suffer, the people in pain, that we care and we are willing to use our gifts and our time to help the people who really need it.
Start by tweeting this story. When you are scrolling on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, share the posts of people who are trying to do something to help those in need.
We need you now. We need everyone to step up and get the right people talking about how to make real change in society and the world.
We need your help!
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Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, vlogger, and mental health advocate living a dream life in far-away destinations he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.
He would love to connect with you on social media.