A few months after my article ran in the Daily News Journal and the archive was no longer in the paper’s database, I found that it had been re-printed on a non-profit mental health news site by the name of North Carolina Mental Hope. (Which is now North Carolina Mental Hope National/World News.) I was both flattered and humbled to have my article posted on a site that frequently re-prints articles from newspapers such as, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
To date, this article is the one that I am most proud of, because the content is of such importance. But- it is sorely neglected by both the media and by society. This is largely due to lack of education and the stigma attached to mental illness. However, with proper exposure and a dose of radical education, I believe the discomfort American’s continue to feel towards those with a mental illness will greatly decrease.
This article is a localized version only- imagine what the statistics would look like world-wide. Being that it was an opinion editorial for a newspaper, I was limited in terms of “word count.” This is a start, but expect to see a much more in-depth article featuring U.S. statistics very soon. I look forward to your feed back.
By ANNABELLA HARGROVE • July 6, 2008
Often, while perusing a myriad of news sources, I run across a health awareness/advocacy piece. Past and still important topics of concern include AIDS, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; It comes as no surprise really, given the provident advance in science and modern medicine, as well as the recent surge in political superiority concerning the health-care issue as opposed to the diseases themselves.
What is appalling, however, is the lack of education and acceptance where mental illness is concerned. While it is true that various media outlets have given a brief, and mediocre at best, viewpoint of the issue, it is almost always glamorized by the tragedies bestowed upon others; or it’s in relation to the uninsured. We need to address the real issue, mental illness itself and the ineffable pain it causes the individuals, families, friends, and communities.
According to The National Institute of Mental Health (N.I.M.H.), “An estimated 26.2 percent of adults 18 and older (1 in 4) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder,” and “nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for two or more disorders, with severity strongly related to co-morbidity.” Tennessee is no exception. A survey conducted in 2002 by the National Mental Health Information Center, and provided by StateMaster.com, lists the state of Tennessee at number 16 out of 50 states, with 237,202 residents diagnosed with a serious mental illness.
More disturbing than the vast number of people with mental illness, is the stigma attached to the disease- which far too often leads to death. An average of 741 residents die of suicide each year in Tennessee alone, which equals about two suicides per day. Suicide is currently ranked number nine as cause of death in Tennessee. Poisoning, otherwise known as accidental overdose, is the second-leading cause of death in Tennessee. Although, if half of the undetermined intent poisonings were self-inflicted, suicides in this state would rise another four percent, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
Mental Health America recently released findings from a study done on public understanding and comfort with mental illness. While the study showed improvement in the areas of knowledge, the social acceptance and support of mental disorders such as bi-polar, schizophrenia, and major depression fell short in comparison to other diseases such as cancer and diabetes. “The discomfort Americans continue to feel towards people with mental illness is disconcerting. Societal acceptance and support is instrumental in helping individuals and families facing mental health issues recover and enjoy healthy, fulfilling lives in their community,” says Dr. David L. Shern, president and CEO of Mental Health America.
The bottom line is, until we stop ignoring the glaring signs and our society decides to treat mental illness as a serious health concern, we will continue to see horrific tragedies such as suicides, overdoses, and gratuitous school violence on a regular basis.
When AIDS first surfaced as a health crisis, a term was coined, “Silence equals death.” I find this term to be more than suitable for the situation at hand. We must embrace this issue in order to better promote a peaceful resolution. We must, or else silence will most assuredly equal more avoidable deaths.
Annabella Hargrove resides in Murfreesboro, TN. She is a freelance writer, photographer, and poet. Among projects, she is currently working on a memoir.