May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Illnesses are very common and can affect anyone. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI 2018), 1 in 5 people experience mental illness in a given year. Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, and Schizophrenia are amongst some of the most common diagnosed Psychiatric Disorders. As common as these illnesses are, many people with symptoms resist treatment.
Barriers to treatment include inaccessibility, lack of education, and the stigma surrounding mental illness. Lack of mental health funding due to legislative budget cuts has a direct correlation to limited availability of healthcare providers specializing in the care of a mentally ill patient. Thus making treatment inaccessible.
Treatment can also be neglected due to a lack of education. Many people are not seeking professional psychiatric help because they have not been educated on what specific symptoms of mental illness may look and or feel like. Some individuals who do seek treatment may not remain consistent with treatment because they lack insight into truly believing that they do, in fact, have a mental illness. Medications aren’t taken as prescribed and routine follow up appointments are missed as a result of a lack of education.
The stigma surrounding mental illness is a huge barrier to treatment. Out of fear of being labeled “weak” or “crazy”, some individuals affected by mental illness will continue to resist treatment and suffer silently. Stigmas and labels can further drive a person into isolation or seclusion forcing them to lean to other maladaptive ways of coping such as self harm or substance abuse.
While there is no cure for mental illness, there are treatment options. Medications and psychotherapy are available to minimize symptoms. Treatment is geared towards returning affected individuals to an optimal level of functioning. Mental Health Awareness is also important as this will provide the proper education and support to persons suffering with mental illnesses while also reducing the stigma. The more the stigma is reduced, the more individuals will seek out professional help and comply with treatment.
Article written by Renata Weatherspoon, an Adult Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner in New Orleans, Louisiana.