Speaking of Mental Illness...
MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS
Myth: It is unsafe to be around people with mental illnesses because they are likely to become violent.
Fact: People with a mental illness who are receiving treatment are less likely to be violent than the general population. They are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else. In fact, someone diagnosed with schizophrenia is 2000 times more likely to commit suicide than they are to harm someone else.
Myth: Mental illness is a permanent condition. People diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities will never get better - they will just get worse and worse.
Fact: Mental illness can be treated just like any other illness. Over a 20 to 30 year period, the majority of people recover from even the most severe forms of mental illness. With treatment, 70-90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life.
Myth: Depression is all in someone's head. They just need more will power to pull themselves out of it.
Fact: Mental illnesses are no different from physical illnesses. In many ways it is similar to diabetes. There are physical changes in an organ (for diabetes, the pancreas, for mental illnesses, the brain) that affect the levels of chemicals the organ produces (insulin for diabetes, neurotransmitters for mental illnesses). Someone with depression has difficulty changing their mood the way someone with diabetes has difficulty digesting sugar.
➢ One in five Americans suffers from a mental disorder.
➢ An estimated 44 million Americans experience a mental disorder in any given year
➢ Nearly two-thirds of people with mental illness do not seek help, even though effective treatments exist.
➢ Half of the population of the United States will have a mental illness some time in their lives.
➢ In 2000, mental illness, including suicide, was the Number 2 cause of disability, more than cancer and AIDS combined
➢ Among adults, 15% have anxiety disorder, 7 percent have mood disorders, and a little over 1 percent have schizophrenia
➢ Depression is common among people over 65. This group has the highest suicide rate. At the same time, depression is significantly under-diagnosed in this population. Many people think that depression is a normal part of life for older adults, so they do not seek help.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK SOMEONE MIGHT BE SUICIDAL
1. Ask them if they are feeling suicidal.
Do not be afraid that you are going to plant the idea of suicide in their head. They will most likely be thankful that you are listening to them. If they say they are suicidal…
2. Find out if they have plan in place to kill themselves.
Ask if they have an idea of how they would kill themselves. You are trying to determine the seriousness of their intentions. The more specific the person is with their plan, the more they need immediate attention. Ask if they have thought about what method they would use and when and where they would do it. If someone says, “Oh, I haven’t thought about it too much” they still need your support and professional help, but it does not need to happen immediately. If they say, “I plan to kill myself on my father’s birthday next week by shooting myself with my grandfather’s gun in my garden” they need immediate professional attention.
3. Seek professional help immediately if the person seems to be in immediate danger.
You can call 911 or, in Austin, call the Crisis Line at 472-HELP
4. Remove means of suicide from environment
5. Make a no-harm contract with them.
Make a written contract with the person stating that they will not hurt themselves for a certain amount of time (decided between the two of you) without talking to someone first, particularly a mental health professional. Have them write it down.
6. Help them find professional help.
Help them find the number of a mental health professional and make an appointment. Offer to drive them to the appointment. Again, have them write it down.
7. Be supportive and listen to what they have to say
8. Get support for yourself, too.