Alejandro "Chino" Martinez, our Diversity Officer, currently works as a mental health professional. We asked him to share some information with us about the state of mental health awareness in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Chino has a Bachelors in Social Work at Northern Arizona University, an MS in Professional Counseling, and years of experience informing the work that he does. Chino is an incredible resource for both GEM and the community. Keep reading to hear from Chino about mental health and what you can do to support your family, friends, and community!
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five Americans are affected by mental health conditions. One in twenty adults experience serious mental illness each year. Also, one in six youth aged 6-17 years old experience a mental health disorder each year. Although millions of people in the United States face issues with mental health, stigma remains a huge barrier to people receiving the care and attention they need. Stigma affects not only the number of people seeking treatment, but also the number of resources available for proper treatment. Stigma and misinformation can feel like overwhelming obstacles for someone who is struggling with a mental health condition. This is why it’s so important to raise awareness about mental health and do all you can to assist loved ones and friends who are trying to deal with mental health conditions. The month of May is dedicated to mental health awareness, but you can become informed and help spread awareness year-round.
As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn have had a negative effect on millions of Americans' mental health. Isolation, illness, grief, work loss, food insecurity, and the loss of habits have all contributed to an increased demand for mental health services. Around the same time, the need to shield people from COVID-19 has made it more difficult for people to access mental health services, and it has made it more difficult for people to access mental health services.
The prevalence of mental health problems in our country was increasing even before COVID-19. In 2019, approximately 52 million people were affected by mental illness in some way. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every four adults experienced anxiety or depressive symptoms in February 2021, a substantial rise from the previous year. Youth mental health is also worsening, with nearly 10 percent of America’s youth reporting severe depression.
Mental illness has the potential to ruin a person's life as well as the lives of those around them. So many people who are suffering from mental illnesses believe they have nowhere to turn. Mental health problems, at the very least, limit one's ability to enjoy life to the fullest. In the worst-case scenario, it may result in death, either from elevated physical health risks or suicide. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death among our youth. Suicide rates are especially high among Black teenagers, and LGBTQI+ people are at a higher risk of suicide death, as well as suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts.
We must begin discussions about what mental illness is, how to understand it, and the fact that it is a treatable illness in the same way that we inform communities about physical health conditions such as heart disease. Here a few powerful things you can do to help:
-Talk with everyone you know. Ask family, friends, and coworkers how they’re doing and really listen to their answers. If they give any indication that they are depressed or stressed out, let them know that there are resources available to help them. If you sense that they might be considering self-harm or suicide, encourage them to seek help immediately and assist them as appropriate.
-Open up about your own experience with mental health. Share your story if you've dealt with or are dealing with mental illness. It can be reassuring to know that you are not alone in your struggles. It may be the push a person wants to seek support and seek care.
-Educate yourself about mental illness. It’s not uncommon for people to misunderstand mental illness. Learn more about it and share what you learn.
-Encourage physical health that supports mental health. Assist people in realizing that their physical health has a significant effect on their mental health. Healthy eating, exercise, and sleep all contribute to a person's mental and emotional well-being.
Mental Health Awareness Month serves as a timely reminder that mental health is important and that those who suffer from mental illnesses are worthy of compassion, empathy, hope, healing, rehabilitation, and fulfillment. After all, that is what we all want and need now, more than ever, for ourselves, our loved ones, our families, and our planet.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Suicide and Self-Harm Injury
Mental Health Facts in America
Mental Health in America
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services