I had lunch with a friend the other day. This friend has always been a happy, joyful gal who is usually surrounded by supportive friends and family. Recent changes in her health have drastically limited her mobility. She shared with me she is struggling because of this change. “All the things that give me joy are now off limits,” she confided. “I can’t cook, I can’t do my share of the chores, I can’t work like I used to. I’m usually happy and joyful,” she says. “But now all that has changed.” We talked further and both agreed everyone has struggles and battles stress in one form or another.
While that is really nothing new – it’s how people are dealing with these (or not) that leads me to want to write about emotional health for this blog. It seems that the stigma associated with having mental health issues, just won’t go away, while the amount of people affected continues to rise.
Studies show that 20 – 25% of Americans have a diagnosable mental and/or substance disorder in any given year. (according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI) That’s one in four, which is close to 58 million people! But statistics say that only 40% of those individuals will receive treatment. So, with suicide increasing as the tenth most common cause of death in America it is obvious that as our culture evolves, America’s mental health is going to continue to be pressed to its limits as well.
Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million Americans age 18 and older and are the most common among mental illnesses. Hand in hand with anxiety, depression is found in half of those who are diagnosed with some form of anxiety. It is estimated that one in ten Americans is now taking an antidepressant. That number goes to one in four when talking about women in their 40’s and 50’s.
So, let’s be honest! We are all dealing with stress and anxiety. Your child is acting out at school or fighting with their siblings, your job is wanting you to put in more time than you feel you can spare or, you are worn thin with trying to juggle it all. You want more time to pray or fellowship, but we don’t want to talk about what might be bothering us for fear of being judged. We are all trying to be super mom or super dad or super successful. This is when the best thing to do is talk about it. It may be the greatest barrier we need to overcome – because there is much power is being able to express what might be affecting us. So how do we break down the barriers to making it more acceptable to talk about any symptoms?
I think back on lunch with my friend the other day and am happy she felt free to speak with me about her lack of joy during this phase in her life. It occurs to me that in a more compassionate world, there may be a day where people can sit down and talk about mental health symptoms as if it were a common cold. If you have a fever and congestion vs. loss of appetite and interest in your normal activities, there should be no difference in the level of acceptance in talking about it.