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  • Melissa Sims

Can We Just Talk About It?

While I touched on Mental Health Awareness month last week for our leaders, I feel that it is such an important topic that I would also like to share some of the same information with you. In case you weren’t aware, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and with the prevalence of mental illness, I felt it was worth revisiting. 



I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health lately, mainly because of my family. I have a daughter in college, which is a stress all in its own. My son in high school, and plays competitive baseball, both of which are also high stress and pressure. Both of my children went through the pandemic during the most formative years of their lives. I would be remiss to not recognize the impact that it has had on them and their mental wellness. 


They were both raised in one home, had a very stable childhood, and really didn’t have much struggle in their early years. I am beyond grateful and know that is not the case for many. My daughter has always been a little quiet (but sassy), and my son was always full of contagious laughter. However, once the pandemic hit, and they were stuck on zoom for countless hours, I noticed a shift. My son didn’t change too much, aside from playing video games more, but my daughter definitely turned inward and became a little anti-social. She was just entering high school when the pandemic hit, and didn’t return to full in-person school until she was a junior. These are some of the most formative years of life for a teenager, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say it affected her. Instead of having a social life, she turned inward to her books and her school work. Now, I can’t exactly pinpoint if it was pandemic related or just normal teenage angst, but I also have a family history of mental health issues on my father’s side, so any kind of behavioral changes spark mild concern. 


After much discussion with her and a lot of listening, I don’t believe what she is going through is a mental illness. I do believe she was affected greatly by the pandemic, but I can see a strength in her resolve that tells me she is just fine and will thrive in her life. But it really took a lot of talks, a lot of snuggles, and a lot of support. 


I am telling you all about this because I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about our mental health. AT ALL. There is a major stigma around mental illness and it has to stop in order for us to be well, mentally and physically. Consider the fact that almost 1 in 4 adults suffered from mental illness at some point in 2021, but less than 50% of those received treatment. Why? What aren’t we getting the help we need and deserve? 


Approximately 22.8% of U.S. adults experienced some form of mental illness in 2021, with higher rates among females (27.2%) than males (18.1%). Young adults aged 18-25 showed the highest prevalence at 33.7%. About 5.5% of all U.S. adults suffered from a serious mental illness in 2021, with again higher rates among young adults (11.4% for those aged 18-25) and females (7.0%) compared to males (4.0%). [source]


- Anxiety: 19.1%

- Major Depression: 8.3%

- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6%

- Bipolar Disorder: 2.8%

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: 1.2%

  • Schizophrenia: less than 1%


That is a LOT of people!!! So why aren’t we getting treatment? Insurance is a major factor. Not only do some insurance companies not cover mental illness 100%, but many don’t cover it at all. It isn’t looked at the same way a cold, a heart issue, a lung problem, etc. is looked at. It makes me think of dental care - somehow the insurance companies have decided that our teeth aren’t as important as the rest of our bodies, so they don’t include that coverage in their plans. But we know now that is not the case, and poor dental health can lead to a myriad of health problems, even mental health. Our mental and emotional wellness aren’t something you can see in an x-ray, or biopsy in a lab. But they are just as much a part of our wellness as any other part of our bodies. 


A significant portion of individuals with mental illness remain undiagnosed or untreated, particularly in specific demographic groups. Non-Hispanic whites and those identifying as multiple races have higher access rates to mental health services compared to Hispanic, Black, or Asian populations [source]. Additionally, a vast number of people live in areas designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas, highlighting the ongoing challenges in access to care. [source]


What can we do about it? The first thing to do is normalize talking about it…just like you would talk about any other illness you have. Another thing we can do is not ignore it if we are feeling ‘off’ or if we notice someone else is not themselves. Depression and anxiety are the two top mental illnesses that are affecting the population. It could be temporary, like grief or sadness or more severe like depression. It could be event driven, like anxiety for an upcoming review or test. Or it could be more long-term anxiety, caused by unknown factors. Whatever it is, temporary/long-term, mild or serious, it is still something that can be treated. The important thing here is to treat yourself and others with compassion. You deserve to feel good!


Mindfulness can help, but be cautious with meditation when it comes to mental illness. Sometimes, meditation can make the issue worse, as you can access inner parts of yourself that may trigger past traumas or exacerbate a more serious issue like schizophrenia. If you aren’t sure what is going on with you, see a doctor or even seek online help! If it turns out to be temporary or not serious, you will at least know. If it turns out that you have a longer term illness, you can get treatment and hopefully start to feel better. If you aren’t able to see a doctor, or don’t have access, there are free options out there. You don’t have to suffer. 


Mental Health Awareness Month has been around since 1949. I was shocked to hear that, since almost 75 years (!) have passed and we still have a long way to go. But progress is a good thing, and any progress is welcome. Please don’t be ashamed of how you feel. You are not alone and the more we talk about mental illness the more accessible we can make it. 


Here are some resources for free and low-cost mental health care:


LA County Department of Health Services (if you aren't in LA, check your county's website)

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