May is Mental Health month. As stated by the World Health Organization, “There is no health without mental health.” In the course of a lifetime, not all people will experience a mental illness, but everyone will struggle or have a challenge with their mental well-being (i.e., their mental health) just like we all have challenges with our physical well-being from time to time. We all experience mental health, however, some people experience mental health in a way that can be difficult and requires assistance. Just as we view any health condition, people move on a continuum ranging from great or good health, to so-so health to poor health or illness or disability.
When talking about mental health we also must speak about mental illness. A mental illness is an illness the affects that way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others. There are many different mental illnesses, and they have different symptoms that impact peoples’ lives in different ways.
On average, 1 in 5 U.S adults experience mental illness each year, and 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Additional facts to know, 50% of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% by age 24, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34.
The manner in which we speak about mental health can be a way to promote seeking treatment or it can cause people to avoid treatment. Something we all can do to help change the language and perspective of mental health is to use non-judgement “people first language,” describing people as individuals rather than defining them by their mental conditions.
Instead of saying any of the following- “That person is mentally ill” “They are schizophrenic” “They are psychotic/disturbed/crazy” “They are afflicted with/suffer from/ is a victim of bipolar disorder” or “They committed suicide”.
Try to replace with one of these- “That person is living with a mental health condition” “They have schizophrenia/ They are living with schizophrenia” “They are disoriented/ hallucinating/experiencing symptoms of psychosis/ experiencing psychosis” “they are living with bipolar disorder/ They have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder” or “They died by suicided”.
If you or a person you know is having any increased difficulty coping with any mental health symptoms, please consider talking to a doctor about medication, therapy or other resources that may help. You may also consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line 741-741 to reach a live, trained crisis counselor.
Have a great day,
Joseph Kline, MSW, LCSW