Her take: It’s important to be aware of mental health issues | Opinion

I was recently contacted by local ninth graders working on a project to identify community challenges and develop strategies to address them. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but their focus was on teenage mental illness and May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

At any time, it is always important to be aware of the issues related to mental illness. This month’s focus provides a practical backdrop for such conversations. With that in mind, I’ll share my answers to thoughtful questions from Madison, Athziri, and Rylie:

Are cases of mental illness increasing?

Yes, and not just because of the pandemic. Data from the World Health Organization shows that mental illness was on the rise before COVID-19. Mental Health America notes that suicidal ideation among adults in the United States has increased every year since 2011-2012, and growing numbers of young people are suffering from major depression. In 2015, nearly one in 10 young people in Idaho between the ages of 12 and 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode. This figure has nearly doubled since the 2022 report, an increase of more than 14,000 students.

What can make a difference for someone with mental illness?

Recognize that mental illness is a medical condition, for which early diagnosis and appropriate treatment make a difference. Know the signs of mental illness and talk about it without ridicule, judgment or shame to foster an environment where everyone can feel safe seeking support. With half of all chronic mental illnesses beginning at age 14, three-quarters at age 24 (according to the National Institute of Mental Health), this is essential for young people and those who are s take care of them and work with them.

What is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, doing to address this issue in Idaho?

NAMI educates, advocates and provides support for people with mental illness and those who care for them. We offer in-person and virtual classes for individuals and families, and host support groups across the state where participants can share, learn, and feel less isolated in complete confidentiality. We advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and reduce stigma.

What is your biggest challenge?

Some might think it’s the lack of access to resources in our rural state, or the cost of treatment. I think it’s the need to change the way we think about mental illness.

Education improves our understanding and awareness, prompting a more effective approach to dealing with it.

When a parent realizes that anxiety or depression is the cause of a young person’s defiance or inability to get out of bed, they can ask for help rather than punishing them for their defiance or laziness.

When an employer recognizes the signs of mental illness in the workplace, they can provide accommodation, address burnout, and provide benefits including employee assistance programs and insurance coverage. for mental health care.

When we collectively recognize the prevalence of mental illness and its impact, we encourage lawmakers to make policy decisions that reduce harm to people with mental illness and fund mental health care programs.

Awareness and education lead to action. That’s why we have Mental Health Awareness Month.

What are others doing to help? Learn about mental illness. Volunteer and contribute to organizations that work to educate and support people who have it.

Understand that mental illness is a medical condition for which there is a treatment.

Believe that healing is possible. Listen with compassion and share your own challenges to normalizing mental health conversations.

And finally, do you think the problem will improve?

Absolutely. If we are willing to educate ourselves, fight stigma, and seek support for ourselves and our loved ones, we can all make a difference in Idaho.

Markley is the executive director of NAMI Idaho, the state organization of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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