Anyone who's struggled with issues around mental health has felt the shame -- maybe it comes up when you're moving your prescription pill bottle below your sink because guests are coming over for a dinner party or when you have to list the medications you take on a form or simply when someone asks you if you've ever been depressed or anxious. In my experience, living in LA in 2016, it feels far less shameful to be an addict than to be someone dealing with depression and/or anxiety. When it comes to addiction, we have cool, fun meetings where we laugh and bond. We go to rallies! We have podcasts! Celebrities tout how great their lives have become as a result of their recovery. But there ain't nothing cool or fun about mental health issues. Yes, there are strides being made -- with Paul Gilmartin's Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast leading the pack -- but there's a long road to go to take away the stigma of being mentally ill.
And yet, according to CNN, the stigma seems to be shifting. This conclusion is based on the results of a study done by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, which reported that almost 90 percent of Americans view mental and physical health equally.
What Does This Study Really Say, Though?
While sure, it's great people understand that what's going on in the brain is just as important as what's going on in the body, I wouldn't say this news means the stigma is evaporating. Just ask those currently marveling at the success of Trump's presidential campaign: You can get that something's important but still judge the hell out of it. The problem, in other words, isn't about knowledge; it's about people feeling safe enough to admit they're suffering.
I was thinking about this the other day when chatting with a friend who always talks about how she's naturally cheerful and positive. Most of my other friends regularly admit to struggling with sadness or frustration or anxiety or just life but this one person will say, always with a degree of pride, that she just doesn't have those issues. And yet she seems more consistently sad than my friends who are always talking about their issues. If depression was as accepted as studies like this say it is, would people like her really be so unable to admit that they're struggling?
Then There's the Man-Woman Thing
The semi-good news for my friend is that she's a woman, and that supposedly puts her ahead of the game in terms of coming clean. See, this study reports that while women are more likely to have thoughts of suicide, they are also more likely to get treated for mental health issues.
And yet, as a widely reported study back in November revealed, middle-aged American men are dying in record numbers -- in part from suicide. According to the branch chief of the CDC's Division of Violence Prevention, they're four times more likely than women to die from suicide and rates are higher for middle-aged, white, non-Hispanic men between the ages of 35 and 65.
At Least The Kids Are All Right
While millennials are easy to mock, they may be our saving grace here, since the study also reports that those between the ages of 18 and 24 are more comfortable getting help for mental health issues. According to CNN, they consider seeing a mental health professional a sign of strength.
It helps that they have role models like Demi Lovato (who's been open about her addiction as well as about her bipolarity and experience with cutting). There may not be any fun gatherings of hipsters rocking out to Steven Tyler as they share about their sadness but as people even casually following the current campaign well know, these days anything is possible.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
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Source: Healthy Living Huffington Post