Mental Health: Closing the Gap Between Need and Care

We’re regularly reminded to take care of our physical health—drink plenty of water, avoid eating junk food, exercise regularly and visit the doctor yearly for a checkup.

But when was the last time you were reminded to get a mental health checkup?

Mental health is important, but we often sweep it under the rug or avoid it in casual conversations. We shouldn’t. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five U.S. adults experiences some sort of mental illness in any given year. The same source states that 21.4% of youth aged 13–18 experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. And while these statistics are shocking, what’s more shocking is that not everyone who has a mental illness is receiving help. NAMI reports that only 41% of U.S. adults who need mental healthcare received appropriate services in the past year, and just over half of children—50.6%—received help in the previous year.

There are many reasons for the gap between need and care: the stigma associated with this type of illness, the financial burden of the care and that fact that some people are not even aware that they, or a loved one, is struggling.

Mental illnesses are not all the same, and there is no one-size-fits-all definition for people who may be struggling. But adults and youth with mental illness do experience some common symptoms. These can include:

  • Excessive emotions—fear, worry, sadness
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Avoiding friends, family or social activities
  • Difficulty understanding or relating to others
  • Thoughts or talk about suicide

For children, the symptoms can vary, but can also include:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety; for instance, fighting to avoid bed or school
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental illness, don’t be afraid to reach out to your community, friends and family, or your primary care physician to get more information or just to talk. In the Wilmington and greater Delaware areas, there are multiple resources and events that encourage awareness of mental illness.

Delaware’s National Alliance on Mental Illness

Delaware Support Groups

Hope for Recovery: October 21, 2017

Mental Health Association in Delaware

NAMI Basics: October 7 and October 14

For more information about mental illnesses, or to find out about more resources, call Saint Francis Healthcare to talk to a doctor at 302.421.4100.

If you or someone you know needs helps now, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.255, or call 911.

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