How serious is the issue of mental disorders?
Youth suicide is currently the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 15 and 24 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012) making it a vital public health issue in the United States. Consider that one in ten young people experience a period of major depression (MentalHealth.gov). Among adolescents worldwide, around 20% have mental disorders or problems (World Health Organization, 2012).
What is more concerning is that mental health resources are most scarce in areas with the highest levels of mental health disorders. Meaning, there is a shortage of social workers, psychiatrists and nurses where the need is the greatest. Health disparities exist not only regarding resources, but also across race and gender. According to Healthy People 2020, adolescents who are two or more races have the highest prevalence of major depressive episodes (11.5 percent), followed by Hispanics (10.5%), White (9.1 percent), American Indian (8.2 percent), Black (7.9 percent), and then Asian (4.7 percent). More than triple the rate of males (4.7 percent), adolescent females have the highest number of major depressive episodes (13.7 percent).
How is this going to affect us long-term?
If depression is developed during adolescent years, it will most likely impact the adult years. Depression is one of the many mental health conditions that can contribute to a host of problems that may include disability, pain or death (Healthy People 2020). Fergusson and Woodward (2002) found in a 21-year longitudinal study that mid adolescent (ages 14-16) depression significantly increased the risk for major depression, anxiety disorders, and substance dependencies during young adult years (16-21). Additionally, these young adults experienced an increase risk of suicide attempts, educational underachievement, unemployment, and early parenthood. Scientists suggest that causes of depression can range from stress to trauma, and that depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain that effect appetite, behavior, mood, thinking, and sleep (National Institute of Mental Health).
Why is this problem persisting?
This epidemic can be a financial burden for individuals, families as well as the whole society. The cost of suicide on the United States society in 2010 was estimated to be more than $44 billion annually (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). The amount of people who commit suicide every year is 800,000 and 75% of these accounts occur in low and middle-income countries. Considering international turmoil, it makes sense that mental health disorders are doubled after emergencies, war and disaster (WHO, 2012).
The World Health Organization (2012) states that a key barrier to increasing mental health services is a lack of public health leadership. If we want change, we need to continue to talk about mental health issues, and combat the stigma that mental disorders are untreatable. If you or someone you know suffers from mental health symptoms such as sleeping too little or too much, displaying extreme mood swings, or talking about feeling hopeless, please visit MentalHealth.gov