Jensen-Coon: An Invisible Epidemic


Cartoon by Lindsay Schuring

Depression Cartoon by Lindsay Schuring

By Kelcy Jensen-

Mental illness is often seen as a bunch of bogus. A lack of understanding from society leaves those negatively affected by these attitudes feeling hopeless and frustrated. The old-school way of thinking you need to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” leads people to believe those who suffer from mental illness are just weak-willed individuals. Thinking like this is harmful and ignorant, and it sometimes errs on the side of arrogant.

With so many people suffering indescribably from mental illness, we need to take it seriously. Luckily, there has been more awareness raised on behalf of these individuals and illnesses. The fact of the matter is that mental health matters and seems to be something we are losing the ability to regulate in our own lives. The most necessary tool to battle this epidemic is an open mind. So first and foremost, we need to admit our shortcomings and talk about the issue.

There is no definite answer to all of the “why” questions just yet. However, we do know poor mental health has become a big problem. Suicide rates went up by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014. That alarming rate was released in an April 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide has become the 10th leading cause of death. Reports included in an article titled “Why Mental Health Stigma is Lethal” cite suicide as the third leading cause of death among the ages 10-24. We have a catastrophe on our hands in that many people are dying by their own choice and action.

Suicide affects more than the person committing it. Suicide affects everyone. The loss of a life causes devastation and lifelong hurt to the families and friends involved. I have experienced the results of unidentified mental health turning into a grievous outcome firsthand, and I assure you this is not a sweep-under-the-rug topic.

Topics like mental health can be hard for someone to comprehend when they have not had similar experiences or previous knowledge about these matters. Since people do not have an understanding of the different kinds of mental illnesses and what they could look or feel like, they dismiss the topic.

I propose we make sure more educational opportunities are available to the public on these important issues. We forget there are other mental illnesses besides depression and anxiety; there are still many others that need to be addressed. We need more mental health advocates enlightening, empowering and emboldening those affected and the general population. Danei Edelen, a writer for National Alliance on Mental Health, said the following about ending the stigma on mental health: “It’s time to end the silence: our societal ignorance and fear is killing future generations.”

Everything from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder needs to be addressed and respected. Individuals affected by these illnesses have a personal responsibility to take care of themselves and find ways to improve their lives; however, sometimes people need help on their journey.

Our instinctual desire to be with other people, attach ourselves to them and build communities shows how much we need to reach out and help those in need who have a mental illness. There have always been epidemics, such as measles, scarlet fever and the plague. Just as we have come up with solutions and almost eradicated them, we need to view mental health in the same way. Let’s deal with mental illness head-on, ready to provide new solutions and new ways of supporting those affected.

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