For many years, I was living in fear of being found out that I was struggling with depression. But that only made more harm than good in my life.
It was taxing, not only mentally, but emotionally, and physically as well. I put so much strain on my previous relationships. I managed to alienate most of my friends and family. I lose sight of who I was, and what I was here for.
It took some time, but I am slowly getting the help that I need. I have many ways to go, but I have been nothing short of optimistic.
However, this unprecedented crisis has gotten me thinking about others who are still suffering silently from this disease. As we navigate these challenging times, we should also shed the light on the importance of taking care of our mental health.
The Stigma of Mental Illnesses
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
But when you have to juggle between family responsibilities, work obligations, and social situations, it is common practice for everyone to neglect their mental health. In fact, the stigma attached to it is so prevalent that many who suffer choose to live under the radar.
At a young age, most people were forced not to talk about their emotions. Personally, I grew up in a repressed Asian household that viewed mental illnesses as an excuse not to do homework, and something that can be cured by “sucking it up, because life sucks for everyone.” Of course, my parents have come a long way from this mindset.
Still, 38 percent of Americans have reported that they are unwilling to have a person with mental illness move next door to them; 58 percent do not want to work closely with someone who is mentally ill; 68 percent do not want someone who is mentally ill to marry into their family.
These statistics are shocking when paired with reality. As it stands, about 15 percent of the world’s diseases are mental illnesses. One in five adults — about 44 million people — suffer from mental illnesses each year, with depression as the most common, affecting an estimated 300 million people around the world.
With depression so widespread, the WHO has even projected that, by 2030, it will be the leading cause of the global disease burden. The consequences are dire when suicide, which is highly linked to mental illness, particularly depression, takes 800,000 lives every year.
That, in and of itself, should explain why mental health should be at the center of everyone’s attention.
Stop Ignoring Your Mental Health
Living a full and happy life depends on more than just your physical well-being. In fact, you should tackle mental health the same way you tackle physical health.
This is because there is a strong connection between the mind and the body. More often than not, mental illness is the root cause of many physical symptoms. On the other hand, physical pain also hurts your psyche.
Depression alone can cause chronic fatigue and insomnia, which makes it harder to fight off chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, obesity, etc.
Conversely, when you’re in pain, you may not be able to do the activities you enjoy, which can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, a study found that “people with physical health problems are three times more likely to seek mental health care than those without physical conditions.”
Besides this highly dependent cycle, poor mental health also affects financial stability and productivity.
According to a 2003 survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “more than 70 percent of those with mental illness had an annual income of $20,000 or less, and 20 percent lived on just $5,000 per year.” However, for those who maintained employment, the WHO reported an estimate of 200 million workdays lost each year due to depression.
Therefore, it is unsurprising that people with mental health problems may have a lower life expectancy. The topic of mental health is literally a matter between life and death.
According to Dr. David Sack, “Caring for your mind as well as your body means you’ll not only live longer but better.”
Given these challenges, it is paramount that mental health should be approached with as much insight and care as physical concerns.
And that, of course, begins within yourself. Let’s start having more mental health conversations.