The below is pretty much an exact replica of a piece I wrote elsewhere for 2010’s World Mental Health Day. The facts remain essentially the same, and I have a different audience here, so I’ve decided it was worth posting on AtMoM in the spirit of awareness-raising and stigma-busting. It’s reprinted with permission, yakka yakka blah.
Today is World Mental Health Day.
Anything I can say on the subject will have already been much better said by others, so I will just add some facts, figures and information here.
Facts and Figures on Mental Illness
- One in four people will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives.
- Approximately 450 million people across the globe will suffer with some type of mental health difficulty.
- Women are more likely than men to be treated for depression, but it is not known whether or not this is because depression is more common amongst them, or whether they are simply more likely to seek help.
- Men are more likely to be treated for addictions than women.
- It is estimated that about one in ten children will suffer from mental ill health.
- Between one in four and one in five elderly people will experience mental health difficulties; furthermore, dementia affects between five and 20 per cent of elderly people.
- In 2004, 5,500 people were lost to suicide.
- Suicide is the leading cause of death amongst men under 35.
- Approximately one out of every 250 people in the UK are known to have self-harmed.
- About 70% of those presently incarcerated have at least two mental health difficulties.
- Suicide in prisons is notably higher than in the general population.
Source: Mental Health Foundation
- Schizophrenia affects approximately 1% of the population, though it varies from country to country. (Source)
- About 6.5% of women and 3.3% of men suffer from major depressive disorder (clinical depression). (Source)
- About 9% of people are thought to have some form of personality disorder. Specifically, borderline PD and anti-social PD are believed to have rates of 1.4% and 0.6% respectively. (Source)
- It is believed that about 7.8% of the populace may have PTSD at some point in their lives. This includes about 10% of women and about 5% of men. (Source)
- Bipolar disorder is thought to affect between 1 and 3% of the population. (Source)
- Eating disorders have a prevalence rate of about 1 in 20 girls/women (5%). Although eating disorders are observed to be less common in boys and men (at about 0.5%), it is important to remember that males are still affected. (Source)
Please note that estimates of prevalence vary and that these figures are a guideline only.
Myths About Mental Illnesses
- Mental illnesses are not reflective of a person’s character. Exact causes remain unknown, but it is widely accepted that a combination of biological, psychological and social factors contribute to them. Many scientists believe that certain mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are largely organic in nature. Other conditions such as BPD or PTSD develop after traumatic experiences, but it is considered by some that they occur mainly in individuals with a biological pre-disposition to them.
- Schizophrenia is NOT multiple personality disorder. Multiple Personality Disorder, or Dissociative Identity Disorder, is almost always caused by severe childhood trauma during which the child dissociates, creating alter personalities to deal with the enormity of his/her situation. The causes of schizophrenia are largely unknown, but the symptoms include hearing or seeing things that are not there, holding false and/or bizarre beliefs, emotional numbness, disorganised thinking and speech, and an inability to experience any pleasure or joy. See here for information on the confusion between schizophrenia and other mental health problems, here for the Wikipedia article on Schizophrenia in general, and here for Dissociative Identity Disorder.
- Not all individuals with borderline personality disorder are histrionic, manipulative trouble-makers. Indeed, the term ‘personality disorder’ is in general misleading; it could be inferred that a person’s character is flawed, when in fact the term refers to chronic maladaptive and inflexible modes of behaviour and thinking.
- Although in many cases, ‘mild’ depression or depression caused by a painful life event will pass, most mental health conditions simply CANNOT be willed away.
- On a related note, mental health problems do not reflect a poor or lazy character. They’re just illnesses.
- People with mental health difficulties are not any more violent than anyone else. In fact, statistics regularly demonstrate that people with severe mental illnesses are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime.
- Having a mental health condition doesn’t make you stupid – quite often, studies are shown that demonstrate that the opposite is true. Other studies demonstrate no difference between the intelligence of a mentally ill person and that of other members of the populace.
What NOT To Say to Someone with a Mental Health Problem
Just see this page. Please, please, please read it – and then don’t ever say anything contained therein to someone with a mental health problem. Thank you!
Help Bust the Stigma!
Please consider sharing this article, other people’s writing for World Mental Health Day or even composing your own thoughts on the subject. Stigma surrounding mental health issues is sadly all too prevalent in our society even now and we can only combat it with myth-busting, openness and sharing. Thank you.