Editorial - We must overcome mental health stigma
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 07:09
What do you think is the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the United States? If you answered car accidents, gun violence or falling, you would be incorrect.
According to a new study conducted by a group of researchers at the West Virginia University School of Public Health, suicide is now the number one cause of injury deaths in the country, surpassing motor vehicle collisions, which previously topped the list. The study – led by Ian Rockett, a professor in the WVU School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology and published in the American Journal of Public Health – found that from 2000 to 2009, the suicide mortality rate increased by 15 percent. On the other hand, the study found that deaths from car accidents fell by 25 percent during that same time. Poisoning, falls and homicide were the next three top causes of injury mortality.
The findings of this study underscore the urgency of America’s growing suicide problem. According to a recently published report issued by the Center for Disease Control, more than 8 million adults reported having serious suicidal thoughts between 2008 and 2009. During that same period, more than two million adults made suicidal plans, and more than one million attempted suicide. These suicide attempts resulted in close to 40,000 deaths.
Moreover, data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reveals that although 20 percent of American adults struggled with mental illness in 2010, only a little over a third of them were treated for their illness. This disparity highlights the colossal failure of our mental health institutions to reach a majority of those suffering from mental illnesses. It is also undoubtedly, at least in part, a result of the stigma of mental illness that pervades our society. Thus, it is incredibly important for us to fight these damaging misconceptions that discourage many from seeking treatment.
Mental disorders are real illnesses, characterized by irregular biological patterns. They are also treatable problems, which makes the high number of preventable deaths they cause all the more tragic.
Here at WVU, WELLWVU: The Students’ Center of Health offers a full range of mental health treatment options through the Carruth Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services.
If you think you may be suffering from a mental illness, don’t let the fear of being judged by your peers or family members dissuade you from seeking treatment. If someone close to you is struggling with their mental health, encourage them to get professional help.
As the old adage goes, the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that one exists. Unfortunately, this is a problem that is often neglected, and the consequences of this are as heartbreaking as they are inexcusable.