Friday, September 5, 2008

Young people and mental illness

One of the most frustrating things about mental illness is stigma. Too often I encounter individuals who are ashamed or scared to talk about their mental health problems. 
But much like physical illness, mental illness can happen to anybody. And anyone suffering from a mental illness deserves the same support and medical attention as someone suffering from a physical illness. 
This is especially true for young people. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the prevalence of serious mental health conditions in people between the ages 18 and 25 is almost double that of the general population. Yet young people have the lowest rate of help-seeking behaviors. SAMHSA believes that young people have a great chance to minimize future disability if social acceptance is broadened and they receive the right support and services early on. SAMHSA has launched the Mental Health Campaign for Mental Health Recovery: What a Difference a Friend Makes to encourage, educate, and inspire people between 18 and 25 to support their friends who are experiencing mental health problems.
SAMHSA states, "the opportunity for recovery is more likely in a society of acceptance, and this initiative is meant to inspire young people to serve as the mental health vanguard, motivating a societal change toward acceptance and decreasing the negative attitudes that surround mental illness. Mental health recovery is a journey of healing and transformation, enabling a person with a mental health problem to live a meaningful life in a community of his or her choice while striving to achieve his or her full potential."
I believe full-heartedly in this mission. If we can love and support our young people who struggle with mental illness, we might enable an entire generation to live brighter and fuller lives. 
I commend SAMHSA on this initiative, and I encourage anyone who knows a young person suffering from mental illness to offer them your unconditional encouragement and support.

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