May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it is important to educate our friends, families as well as our communities around this serious subject. Mental health seems to be more visible in the media in recent months stemming from tragedies of celebrities and students across the country. Deaths like that of comedian and actor Robin Williams sparked the conversation of people everywhere to start talking about mental illness, it’s impact on individuals with mental health problems and the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Here are some statistics that show the prevalence of mental health issues.

  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health 18.6% of adults in the United States had a mental illness (excluding substance abuse) in 2012.
  • For children, 1 in 5 currently or have had at some point in their life a serious mental health disorder.
  • About 800,000 people commit suicide every year and suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year olds.
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders account for the world’s third largest cause of total number of years lost in a person’s life after cardiovascular/circulatory disease and diarrhea/lower respiratory infections/other common infectious diseases.
  • About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14.

Unfortunately because of the stigma surrounding mental illness in our local communities as well as globally, people do not seek out help for mental illness and this could result in an increased incidence of suicide. But we know that early detection and treatment for mental illnesses lead to quicker and more long lasting recovery. In order to stop the shame and stigma surrounding mental health, below are some common myths regarding mental illness:

  • Mental disorders are a sign of weakness. If someone wants to change and has the willpower they can.
  • People with depression are just lazy and should be able to just get over it.
  • People with mental disorders are dangerous and violent. (Mental Health Fist Aid, 2013)

It’s important for everyone to realize that anyone can develop a mental illness, they do not discriminate based on race, income level, family dynamic, gender or sex. So, the question is, what can we do to stop the shaming and stigma that surround those with a mental illness today?

  • Stop using slang words such as crazy, psycho, nuts, loony etc. to describe someone.
  • Take what people say seriously especially if they are talking about suicide.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are alright, even if you don’t know them you can let them know someone notices them and wants to help.
  • Treat a mental illness like a physical illness, no body asks for pain and suffering.
  • Learn about resources that are in your community so if the need arises you know what to do.
  • Finally be kind to all, you never know how you may have affected someone’s life by just smiling at them.


About the author:

Portia Kimbis is the Marketing and Community Relations Associate for Walden’s S. Windsor Clinic. Formerly, she was a Residential Treatment Assistant at Rushford, an adolescent boy’s rehabilitation program. Prior to that, she worked as a Senior Patient Coordinator for the OB/GYN Department at the Cornell Medical College at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Ms. Kimbis is enjoying her role at Walden and feels her position is allowing her to learn more about the mental health field and eating disorders. In her free time, she volunteers at Forgotten Felines, a cat shelter where she takes care of felines who need homes.  She also enjoys yoga and traveling.  Ms. Kimbis received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut in 2013 with a double major in Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies.