In the popular imagination, mental illness is something unusual. Maybe that’s why people diagnosed with mental health issues so often feel ashamed. But according to a study published in 2017, almost all Americans experience a mental health diagnosis at some point during their lives. Only 17% manage to avoid mental illness their entire lives. It’s time we start conceiving of mental illness as common—not something that happens to other people.
So what’s behind this epidemic? And what can we do about it? Future Now Detox is leading the way, offering comprehensive mental health treatment that can sustain a lifetime of wellness.
Media discussions of mental illness often frame it as something that happens to other people. But research consistently makes clear that mental health diagnoses are part of the normal continuum of human experience. Life is difficult, and the challenges of life’s daily struggles can lead to mental health issues.
For some people, the challenges are short-lived. About 42% of people experience a short-term mental health condition that disappears with treatment. For about 41% of the population, however, mental health diagnoses are a chronic, relapsing problem. They may get better, then get worse. This can pose a barrier to effective treatment. Like other relapsing disorders, it’s not uncommon for mental illnesses to temporarily get better on their own, even without treatment. Yet when they come back, they may be more aggressive than before. Likewise, sometimes the first line of treatment doesn’t work. Taken together, these two facts can convince people with mental health issues that treatment doesn’t work. This serves as a treatment deterrent.
So we know that most people experience a mental health diagnosis at least once. What about in a given year? Consider the following:
It’s important to note that mental health conditions are risk factors for both addiction and for other mental health conditions. For instance, a person with depression who experiences a traumatic event is significantly more likely to develop PTSD, to cope with the trauma using drugs or alcohol, or to experience worsening depression. This is why prompt identification of the symptoms of mental health issues, as well as appropriate treatment, are so critical for public health.
Anyone can develop a mental health condition. These disorders are not limited to a specific “type” of person. Moreover, most people with a mental health diagnosis do not outwardly display symptoms. Many work to actively conceal the pain they experience. This is a significant reason why it’s so easy to think of people with mental illness as “other people” rather than correctly realizing that they are our friends, family, and ourselves.
Some people are at greater risk of mental health issues than others—due to a combination of difficult life circumstances, genetics, and other factors. Researchers do not yet fully understand mental health, so it’s impossible to give an accurate assessment of why one person develops a mental illness when a similar person does not.
We also know that people with difficult lives are more likely to have a mental illness. That mental illness can then further compound difficult circumstances, making it difficult to escape:
This paints a bleak portrait of our nation’s mental health. Some analysts are quick to dismiss these numbers as the product of over diagnosis. Others claim that mental illness is the result of flawed thinking. Compelling scientific data suggests otherwise. Mental illnesses are real health conditions. And just as our contemporary lifestyle of fast food and sugary snacks has led to an epidemic of cardiovascular disease, it’s likely that a host of lifestyle and societal factors play a role in today’s mental illness epidemic. Humans did not evolve to spend their lives in misery. Understanding what’s at the core of mental illness is key to treating it.
Research into the causes of mental illness is still in its infancy. We do know that people are more likely to develop a mental illness when they have certain risk factors. More risk factors generally equate to a higher risk. However, it’s impossible to predict a person’s risk based solely on risk factors. Someone with many risk factors might never develop a mental illness, while someone with no mental illness risk factors might still develop significant mental health issues.
Some risk factors for mental illness include:
Another important risk factor for mental illness is delaying treatment. When mental illness goes untreated, it tends to get worse. It can also cause painful life circumstances—divorce, addiction, job loss—that make it more difficult to cope, and that are themselves linked with a heightened risk of mental illness.
There’s also some evidence that societal factors may play a role. People lead increasingly stressful and disconnected lives. They may not have supportive communities or families, and personal reputation is increasingly important. This means that people with mental health woes may not have the support they need, and may fear the consequences of seeking help. This may be why mental illness rates are higher than the United States than in most nations, and why worldwide mental illness rates continue to increase.
Though researchers don’t fully understand the causes of mental illness, they know one thing for sure: mental illness is not a character flaw. It’s not something a person causes, or that they can pray away or otherwise cause to disappear by thinking their way out of it. Mental illness is like many other illnesses, such as diabetes or arthritis: the causes are complex and varied, but the fundamental disease is a real disease, and is not the ill person’s fault. Mental illness, like other illnesses, requires treatment.
Despite overwhelming evidence that mental illness is a real illness, that it is not a character failing, and that it is highly treatable, many people with mental illness grapple with stigma. Stigma can come in the form of:
Mental health stigma ruins lives. It makes people think their mental health woes are their own fault. And it makes mental illness worse by causing people to delay treatment. If someone you love has a mental illness, you can avoid stigmatizing them by:
When people feel understood and respected, they are more likely to seek treatment, and more likely to get better quickly. Stigma hurts. Fighting stigma heals.
About half of people who have a mental illness also have an addiction. This is called a co-occurring disorder, or a dual diagnosis.
Dual diagnoses makes treatment more difficult. It’s not enough to treat only the addiction or only the mental illness. Instead, treatment must focus on treating both issues, and addressing the way they interact. For instance, a person with depression may get significantly more depressed when they go through withdrawal. Without tackling the underlying depression, forcing them to quit drugs or alcohol can actually do more harm than good.
In some cases, mental illness medications are themselves addictive. For example, ADHD is often treated with stimulant drugs that can become heavily addictive. The depression that often accompanies chronic pain may only relent with opioid pain relievers. Only by treating mental illness and addiction as an interconnected whole can addicts truly get the help they need. So what does that process look like?
Many People Don’t Get Appropriate Treatment
The great tragedy of both mental illness and addiction is that most people with these devastating conditions do not get appropriate treatment. Consider the following data:
Left untreated, mental illness ruins lives and destroys families. It also exacts a significant society-wide toll. Mental health care costs about 60 billion dollars annually in the United States alone. Untreated mental illness reduces productivity and drains other resources, including law enforcement resources. Lost productivity alone drains $100 billion from U.S. resources. Other factors likely cost billions more.
What Does Effective Mental Health Treatment Look Like?
Future Now Detox is proud to offer comprehensive, holistic addiction treatment that can simultaneously address co-occurring mental health conditions. All too often, addiction treatment facilities treat mental health as a secondary issue. Some are not equipped to treat it at all. Others take a modest, non-aggressive approach. We think that’s the wrong way.
Addiction and mental illness are aggressive, chronic diseases. They are also treatable. Even people who suffer immensely can recover and lead wonderfully meaningful and satisfying lives. That’s our goal. We build our treatment program around treatment protocols that research shows work. Here are some of the most effective strategies for treating mental illness and addiction:
Our society is facing a mental illness epidemic. Future Now Detox is on a mission to end this plague once and for all. We believe we can bring forth a day where no one struggles alone with addiction or mental health.
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