The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently release a report with some concerning statistics. While they estimate that over 24 million people age 18 and older experienced a serious psychological challenge during 2008, less than 50% of received any kind of mental health service. Included in the review were issues such as anxiety. Rates for those experiencing mental distress were highest for young adults (18 to 25 years old) and lowest for people over the age of 50. Alarmingly, those same young adults were least likely to received services 29%) versus over 50% of people over age 50.
The disparity by age group could be partially result of both recognition (younger people may be less likely to recognize mental distress as a serious condition) as well as resources (older people may have better insurance coverage and more expendable income). The numbers are nevertheless concerning. Untreated mental distress can deepen and become a more significant or debilitating challenge, and the prevalence among young people of having untreated mental distress hints at future challenges in the mental health profession.
Anyone experiencing mental distress would be well advised to seek treatment early, as you would with any other condition affecting your well-being.
Further is must be noted that nearly all public media messages about mental and emotional distress are produced by pharmaceutical companies as they market their drugs. I have yet to see one of these ads recommend psychotherapy as either an alternative or an adjunct therapy. These stats indicate that we must do a better job of publicly talking about mental health issues and the array of interventions that are available.
Unemployment and the economic conditions in general, continue to be the primary concern for most Americans. With good reason as we all know. Losing one’s job is a challenging experience, often resulting in significant symptoms of stress, anxiety and fear (see my prior post on 11-12-08 Grief: A brief review…). While certainly not the most important things , there is much about our lives that we do purchase, and the multi-layer losses resulting from job loss can be staggering. Living through the reality or the fear of these circumstances sometimes can intensify the combination of stress, anxiety and fear because so many areas of life will be affected at once.
If you start to have symptoms that are associated with stress, such as increased forgetfulness, periods of difficulty breathing, or pain, even mild pain, in your upper arms or chest, you must go for a thorough physical examination as soon as possible. If there are no medical causes for your distress, then you have a chance to learn how to reduce and cope with stress before it does indeed cause real physical illness. Getting help in learning how to cope with the stress you’re under can mean the difference between physical health and physical illness as well as between emotional health and emotional distress.
If you are experiencing stress in your life please do not wait to have a symptom before you seek help. Consider putting together several different strategies such as relaxation sessions or yoga, go for walks more often or watch and follow an exercise CD and above all talk to someone about your ideas and fears. The best combination of listeners includes both people you interact with regularly and feel close to, as well as a professional who is not a part of your everyday life. That way you get support and feedback from someone inside your situation as well as from someone outside of it. What you will get from each of of these will help to bring balance and perspective to your thoughts, and so can help you to maintain a realistic view of your current situation, your life story, and the role others play or have played in that story. Connecting with friends and seeing a professional therapist, so that you can share your thoughts and feelings will encourage you to keep your eyes up, help you to manage your stress, and keep you focused and ready for the next opportunity. You won’t see it if you’re looking, and feeling, down. Make a change today, by connecting with others to lift your spirits and your perspective.