ALL Health Is Important, and That Includes Mental Health
Updated: Apr 2
Imagine if broken limbs were treated the same as mental illness. A world where broken limbs were never talked about. One where a broken leg was ignored and avoided in all conversation rather than met with understanding and sympathy. One where a student’s cast was hidden under his jacket rather than being signed by all his peers with rainbow-colored markers. Mental illness is a worldwide problem that leads to millions of deaths every year, but it appears that nobody is discussing it. Well let me clarify, scientists and mental health experts are talking about it… but what about everyone else? Conversationally, in day to day life, this topic doesn’t seem to exist. There seems to be no casual way to bring up one’s schizophrenia, or no simple understanding of how to talk about depression. The ironic part of these illnesses is that they are no scarier than the flu when broken down. The flu is a disease that infects anywhere from five to twenty percent of Americans each year (CDC Foundation). Of those infected people, approximately two hundred thousand are hospitalized and thirty-six thousand die (Wiegman, 2012). This disease infects the body so that it can no longer function properly and will sometimes result in death if it is not treated properly. Mental illnesses work in a similar fashion. Using depression as an example, this is a disease that affects the brain of its victim so that the natural flow of emotions is limited to unrelenting sadness. With approximately seven percent of the American population suffering at least one major depressive disorder each year, it would appear that this issue is a lot more common than first anticipated. With experts estimating that thirty to seventy percent of suicide deaths are due to depression (Koskie, 2018), which is the tenth leading cause of death in America (Nichols, 2017), it would appear depression alone is as deadly as the flu. Why are these two diseases treated differently? Why is one disease as socially accepted as a broken body part that just needs time to heal, when the other is treated as an unnecessary cry for help? I believe the answer lies in the fact that one affects the respiratory system, while the other affects the brain. The only difference I can see between these two categories is in the name, health compared to mental health.
The problem I see is that physical health is commonly called health, rather than the specific subcategory it really is. By simply calling it health and not categorizing it, it illustrates the idea that mental health is lesser than physical health. It is this social construct that makes physical health appear to be the true health we must maintain, while mental health is more of an option. This mindset must end. It must end because people are dying and many of those deaths could have been prevented if we had openly spoken to one another. I am not saying that mental illness can be cured simply by talking, but I’m saying it is a start. It is a start to see mental illness at its face value, as a disease and not a weakness. I believe the day we feel comfortable enough to talk about our mental issues is the day they begin to go away because once everyone starts talking we will realize just how alike we all are.
Seeing mental illness for what it really is might rid the shame and guilt that so many people feel their entire lives till the day they die. We will all begin to see just how powerful these many illnesses are that exist in the shadows of everyday life. Rather than having a world where broken limbs are in some way superior to mental illness, let’s have a world where all illnesses are as accepted as easily as a broken limb.
CDC Foundation. “Flu Prevention.” CDC Flu Infographic, www.cdcfoundation.org/businesspulse/flu-prevention-infographic. Wiegman, Stacy. “How Many People Get the Flu Each Year? | Cold and Flu.” Sharecare, 2012, www.sharecare.com/health/cold-and-flu/how-common-is-influenza. Koskie, Brandi. “Depression: Facts, Statistics, and You.” Health Line, 2018, www.healthline.com/health/depression/facts-statistics-infographic. Nichols, Hannah. “The Top 10 Leading Causes of Death in the United States.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 23 Feb. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282929.php.
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