When someone is diagnosed with cancer, a variety of reactions and emotions are felt by the person and those around them. Fear of the unknown, sympathy and support surround the cancer patient. When someone is diagnosed with severe depression, the reaction is usually starkly different. It is very common from someone suffering from depression to be told by various people to just “get over it.”
The difference between cancer and depression? Understanding. Cancer is understandable. You can see on a scan where it is and see how to treat it. However, depression is not easily seen and you can’t cut it out of the brain or treat it with radiation.
As the country begins to come back from the most recent tragic shooting in Connecticut, mental illness has been brought up throughout the nation, however, not to the degree that it needs to be addressed. But before help can be given, we must understand how severe of a problem mental illness is.
According to the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Eighteen million of these people are in the U.S. The National Institute of Mental Health also states that untreated, depression is the number one cause of suicide. More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder (NIMH).
An important aspect of mental illness is that for the majority of people who suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, is that it’s treatable. Through counseling and sometimes medication there is a way to defeat or at least control mental illness. Only in extreme cases are further measures such as institutions or 24 hour watch needed.
In America we are fortunate to have medical advances that allow us to research more in depth about what causes mental illnesses such as depression and how to treat it effectively. But with all of these medical advances, mental illness is still a largely unspoken issue.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a diagnosable mental disorders receive mental health services in a given year (NAMI).” What holds people back from receiving help is the embarrassment that comes with not being able to control your emotions or actions because of chemical imbalances in the brain. The stigma on depression and mental illness is so great that many will go without treatment for fear of rejection.
Slowly though, the stigma of mental illness is receding, with the help of groups such as TWLOHA and the National Hopeline Network, but not fast enough. In order to defeat an unknown adversary, we must understand how it fights and gather the support that’s needed to win.
Healing from mental illness will never be a quick process. However, it has become increasingly detrimental in this country to provide help for those who suffer from it. The first step to this is not a government overhaul or to shut away everyone with mental illness, but to open the conversation and expose the reality that mental illness is a problem that can no longer be ignored.
(This is a rough draft of my editorial for class. What do you think of the title? Let me know!)