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Break the Stigma: The Importance of Talking About Mental Health

Published online: Oct 12, 2023 East Idaho Health, Health & Wellness
Viewed 1705 time(s)

By Rich Crislip, Vice President of Care Delivery, Behavioral Health, Optum West Region

From a global pandemic, to economic and social unrest, the past couple of year have led many of us to  struggle with mental health challenges such as increased anxiety and depression. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during late June of 2020, 40 percent of U.S. adults reported they were struggling with mental health issues or substance abuse. 

From 2020 to 2021, the number of adults who have experienced depression grew in a number of states; this increase was particularly notable in Idaho, with a more than 4% increase. Also of concern: suicide was one of the state’s leading causes of death in 2021.

These abnormally high numbers have disproportionately affected younger adults, racial and ethnic minority groups, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers.

In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 1 in 5 U.S adults experience mental illness and nearly 1 in 20 adults live with a serious mental illness. However, only 42.2% percent of adults with a mental illness received mental health treatment in 2020.  

Recently, there has been a reported increase in poor mental health among adolescents, which can impact many areas of a teen’s life and increase stress on families. The CDC reports that in 2021, more than 4 in 10 (42%) students felt persistently sad or hopeless and nearly one-third (29%) experienced poor mental health. Making sure teens feel connected to school and family is very important in helping them grow into healthy adulthood.

We should see these statistics as an opportunity to educate ourselves and others on mental health conditions and treatment options. Although exploring mental health treatment options, which includes psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy), medication, or self-care, can be confusing or difficult, it’s an important first step to take in seeking help.

Some important things to remember in regards to our mental health are:

  1. You are not alone. Millions of people in the U.S are affected by mental illness each year. By acknowledging how common mental illness is, we can better understand its impact and reduce the stigma.

  2. Self-care, such as practicing yoga or meditation, eating well-balanced meals, staying physically active, and getting plenty of sleep, are healthy ways to help cope with stress so you can better take care of yourself and, in turn, be in a better position to help take care of others. 

  3. Connect with others by talking to people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Conversation is a powerful coping tool that may help manage stress and help promote resilience. 

  4. Consider talk therapy, which may be an appropriate option for you. Telemedicine can be a tremendous help particularly for people who are unable to get in-person treatment.

  5. Educate yourself by talking to your doctor or using online resources. The more you know, the more you can dispel misinformation or myths that can increase the stigma around mental illness and hold people back from receiving the treatment they need.

  6. Talk to your children about mental health. Feeling connected to family and school can have a significant impact on their mental health, so communicating openly and honestly with your child provides them with a sense of connectedness.

  7. If someone you know needs help, listening to them in a comfortable and non-judgmental way can be a good place to start. It’s important to genuinely express your concern and avoid blaming, criticizing, minimizing, or assuming things about their experience. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988, or chat to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

If you or someone you know have thoughts about suicide, seek help right away. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room. 

Individuals may need mental health support for a variety of reasons including obtaining help during a stressful time or successfully dealing with a life-long struggle with depression or another serious mental health condition. Even if you are just curious about symptoms of anxiety or depression, it’s never a bad idea to have a discussion about mental health, and to do your part to break the stigma.


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