Written by Ruben Hernandez
Mental health is the foundation of our existence. Not only does our own mental health affect our well-being, it attributes to how we operate, react and feel.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Mental illnesses are categorized into two sections: Any Mental Illness (AMI), and Serious Mental Illness (SMI). AMI covers all of the general mental illnesses, while SMIs are a smaller and more severe subcategory of AMIs.
AMI is defined as any sort of mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. These disorders can range from a mildly impactive disorder to one that causes severe impairment. As of 2016, there are 44.7 million U.S. adults with AMI, which is 18.3 percent of the U.S. adult population.
SMI is defined as mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that causes functional impairment and interferes with major life activities. There are 10.8 million U.S. adults with SMI, representing 4.2 percent of the U.S. adult population.
Almost one in five adults over the age of 18 have some sort of mental illness. It seems that mental illnesses are becoming more common and are caused by a variety of factors.
According to a 2014 study by Oxford University, serious mental illnesses can reduce life expectancy by 10 to 20 years. More specifically, the reduction in life expectancy in bipolar disorder, for example, is between nine and 20 years, and seven to 11 years for recurring depression. The reduction of life expectancy among smokers is eight to 10 years. Yet, we publicly recognize smoking as more of a problem than having a form of anxiety or being diagnosed with depression.
So, why don’t we worry about our mental health more often? Part of that answer seems that we don’t want to. There are people who feel no urge to worry about their mental health because it’s a hindrance to their goals. Many, also, tend to push their feelings to the back of their minds. Others believe there isn’t enough time for their emotions, as they are occupied on juggling activities such as work and education.
Those with mental illnesses that are still in school, such as young adolescents, have seen hindered progress towards attaining their education. According to Columbia University, anxiety disorders affect 31.9% percent of all adolescents, and co-occur in one third of depressed youth, and attribute to a reduced likelihood of not attending college. Those with a repeated occurrence of social phobia are almost twice as likely to fail a grade or not finish high school.
One way to help this is acknowledging your mental illness. While that is easier said than done, just being able to recognize the fact that there is something wrong is a step in the process of living and coping with a mental illness.
Those impacted by mental illnesses usually experience it in their own way, so offering solutions like “just go workout” is a gray area.
Counseling, therapy, medication and even service animals are ways to nullify the effects of a mental illness.
However, none of those can totally erase the impact of having an illness. There isn’t a “cure” to mental illness.
We can offer possible solutions to help live and cope with our mental illnesses, but there’s one thing about wanting to ease the impacts of an illness: it’s all a solo journey. You are the person responsible for your own journey, and while others can help and support, it’s all on you to make the decision to overcome your struggles. So, take a deep breath. Relax. If you find that you might be struggling with any sort of illness or disorder, know that it is okay to feel the way that you do. You are not alone.
If you need assistance, please utilize the counselors at ACC at austincc.edu/students/counseling.