Mental illness is still an issue that causes silent suffering

Exploring the facts versus the myths

Merdies Hayes | 9/7/2017, midnight
About one in five American adults—roughly 43.8 million people—will experience some form of mental illness in any given year. The ...

Suicide is usually the final resort for the mentally ill who either refuse or are unable to receive psychiatric help with their lives. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the Untied States, the third leading cause of death for persons aged 10 to 24 years, and the second leading cause of death for persons aged 15 to 24 years. More than 90 percent of children who commit suicide have a mental health condition. Also, each day an estimated 22 American veterans take their lives.

As many as one in five teens suffer

It is not unusual for young people to experience “the blues” or feel “down in the dumps” on occasion. Adolescence is always an unsettling time, with the many physical, emotional and social changes that accompany this stage of life. However, unrealistic academic, social and family expectations can create a strong sense of rejection and can lead to deep disappointment and devolve into depression. To make matters worse, today’s teenagers have to deal with social media, and they see more illusions of what life has to offer—both good and bad—on television, at school, in magazines and especially on the Internet.

Adolescent depression is increasing at an alarming rate. Mental Health America (MHA), an organization that advocates for mental health support, cited recent surveys that indicate that as many as one in five teens may suffer from clinical depression. Depression, they contend, can be difficult to diagnose in teenagers because adults may expect youth to act moody. “It’s only a phase,” or “they’ll grow out of it” are common responses by parents to what they observe as changing behavior patterns in their teenager.

Because adolescents do not always understand or express their feelings well, most are not aware of the symptoms of depression and may not seek help. MHA suggests that parents, teachers and adult guardians should be on the lookout for signs of teenage depression, particularly if they last for more than two weeks. These telltale signs of teenage depression include but are not limited to: Poor performance in school; withdrawal from friends and activities; expressions of sadness and hopelessness; lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation; anger and rage; poor self-esteem and guilt; substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts and actions.

Historic stigma among African Americans

Sometimes teenagers feel so depressed that they consider taking their lives. Each year, according to the MHA, about 5,000 young people, ages 15 to 25 years, kill themselves. The rate of suicide for this age group has reportedly tripled in the past 50 years, making it the third leading cause of death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college-age youth. Studies undertaken by a number of mental health advocacy groups show that suicide attempts among young people may be based on long-standing problems (e.g. bullying, sexual identification) sometimes triggered by a specific event. Suicidal adolescents may view a temporary situation as a permanent condition, therefore feelings of anger and resentment combined with exaggerated guilt can lead to an often impulsive and always tragic act.