Despite the remarkable prevalence of mental illness in the United States, the stigma associated with psychiatric disorders is ubiquitous and destructive. This stigma is based on a limited understanding of mental illness. The most effective means of combating this stigma is to promote a more complete understanding of mental illness in its various forms.
Mental illness, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, involves a clinically significant pattern of impaired psychological functioning that results in distress or disability. The National Institute of Health estimates that more than 20% of adults in the United States will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in any given twelve-month period.
Women are at higher risk for being diagnosed with a mental illness than are men, and younger adults are twice as likely to suffer from a psychiatric condition than are older adults. Although NIH estimates that more than 11 million Americans will suffer from a diagnosable mental illness this year, only about one-third will receive any treatment at all, and just 12% of sufferers will receive treatment which is minimally adequate.
Mental illness can take many forms. The most unusual or seemingly bizarre psychiatric conditions are also the most rare.
Patients diagnosed with Cotard’s Syndrome, for example, believe themselves to be dead, soulless, and devoid of bodily organs. Synesthesia involves a blending or overlap of sensory experience, for example synesthetes may “hear” colors or “see” music. Those suffering from Windigo’s Psychosis crave consumption of human flesh. An individual suffering from Capgras Syndrome believes his or her loved one has been secretly replaced with a duplicate. Patients diagnosed with Alien Hand Syndrome experience involuntary hand movements of which they are wholly unaware including self-inflicted punching, scratching, tearing.
With greater understanding of the prevalence, risk factors, and various forms of mental illness, comes a waning of the stigma associated with these conditions. With a waning of stigma associated with mental illness, comes an increased likelihood that sufferers will seek treatment. And with better treatment for mental illness comes a stronger, healthier, more vital America.
Image source: www.psychdegrees.org