Mental illness is more common than you think. One in five adults in the U.S. suffers from a mental illness, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH).
Thankfully, many celebrities who seem to have it all (at least when it comes to fame and fortune) — Jada Pinkett-Smith, Taraji P. Henson and Jay-Z, to name a few — have shared that they have the same mental health problems as the rest of us.
This has led to increased awareness and helped decrease the social stigma associated with mental health issues. That means that seeing therapists, or living with conditions like depression, anxiety, panic attacks or bipolar disorder are nothing to be ashamed of.
But there is still plenty of work to do.
Need proof? Look no further than these statistics:
Research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed that only about 30% of African-American adults with mental illness seek out treatment each year, compared to an average of 43% of others Americans.
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey of nearly 199,000 high school students found that the rate of reported suicide attempts by black teens rose 73% between 1991 and 2017, as attempts by other racial and ethnic groups fell, according to a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics.
“Many people misunderstand what a mental health condition is and don’t talk about this topic. This lack of knowledge leads many to believe that a mental health condition is a personal weakness or some sort of punishment from God. African-Americans may be reluctant to discuss mental health issues and seek treatment because of the shame and stigma associated with such conditions,” says the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The organization adds: “In the African-American community, family, community and spiritual beliefs tend to be great sources of strength and support. However, research has found that many African-Americans rely on faith, family and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though medical or therapeutic treatment may be necessary.”
Here are 10 warning signs experts say you should look out for that could mean it’s time to take care of your mental health:
- Your family and friends are worried about you acting differently
- You no longer enjoy the things and activities you used to love
- You lose your desire to socialize with others and start spending much of your time alone.
- Your job performance has gone down (not going to work, missing deadlines, poor productivity)
- You have headaches, stomach problems, muscle aches and soreness for no reason
- Your sleep patterns are off (routinely not being able to sleep or waking up early)
- Changes in appetite, losing your interest in health and fitness or excessive drinking or smoking
- You frequently start to lose control of your emotions or freak out over small things
- You consistently don’t feel like yourself or know something is off about you
- You experience dark, harmful or suicidal thoughts (this is a clear sign that you need to seek help ASAP!)
If you’re experiencing a severe version of any of these symptoms, or they have lasted more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor or seek out help from a mental health professional.
Remember, you are not alone! If you’re feeling overwhelmed and are struggling to cope, don’t be afraid to reach out and get support. It literally can make the difference between life and death.
Where to Get Help If You Need It
For general mental health information, contact the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline at 1‑877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727).
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website for valuable resources to find help and support, or call the toll-free helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or text NAMI to 741741.