Tag Archives: invisible disabilities

Sobering Statistics About Mental Illness

Unfortunately, like many other invisible disabilities, mental illness still bears the weight of unfair societal stigma, even though no one has “perfect” mental health. Mental health is a spectrum onto which we all fit somewhere. So why do we have compassion for people going through (visible) physical illnesses but often only suspicion, impatience or frustration toward those going through serious mental illnesses? Perhaps more awareness is key. Let’s examine some of the sobering facts of how strongly mental illness impacts America:

  • Over 60 million Americans (1 in 4) will battle with mental illness annually.
  • More than 13 million suffer a serious mental disability such as major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comprise the most common mental illnesses in the United States, afflicting over 42 million Americans.
  • Rape survivors (of both genders) are most likely to experience PTSD. It affects 65% of male rape survivors and nearly 50% of female rape survivors.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition marked by extreme worry, often about inconsequential, irrational or highly unlikely things, that occupies abnormally large portions of the sufferer’s life. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, GAD affects about 6.8 million Americans (predominantly women).
  • Approximately one in eight children will develop an anxiety disorder that will likely cause them to feel socially alienated, distracted at school and be more likely to participate in early substance abuse. Know the signs of children and anxiety disorders.
  • Tragically, 20% of suicide victims are American veterans (even though veterans only make up 1% of the entire United States population).
  • Suicide more common than homicide in the United States, and is the leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults.
  • Depression, like many mental illnesses, is a highly treatable condition with combinations of medications and types of therapy, but unfortunately, too many people don’t get the help they need.
  • Approximately 5 million Americans have a substance abuse problem, an issue that often goes hand-in-hand with mental illness. Some turn to recreational drugs or alcohol because of the torment of a mental illness, while others may develop a mental health condition such as depression partially because of a substance problem.
  • Over 60% of homeless shelter patrons are plagued by severe mental illness or substance abuse problems.
  • According to the University of Washington ‘Mental Health Reporting’ most of those who commit suicide were suffering from undiagnosed, untreated or undertreated depression.
  • Similar to depression, anxiety disorders are also very treatable, but unfortunately less than one-third of anxiety disorder sufferers get the treatment they require.
  • Mental illnesses are often comorbid. Approximately 50% of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with a neighboring anxiety disorder.
  • According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 20% of prisoners have a history of mental illness, and a whopping 70% of juvenile offenders have at least one mental health condition.

Available Help

There are many organizations in existence to help prevent, treat or provide guidance to those suffering mental health conditions or suicidal tendencies, but unfortunately not enough sufferers avail of these services for a range of reasons. If you or a loved one is struggling with an undiagnosed or untreated mental health condition, please talk to your doctor immediately to get a treatment plan in place. Other resources you can utilize include:

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Invisible Disabilities (Part 1) – More Than Meets The Eye

A disability is a chronic health condition that interferes with one’s daily living by impeding routine activities. So what’s an invisible disability? According to Disabled-World, the term refers to people with chronic debilitating conditions (mental or physical) that are not obvious to an onlooker. Someone with a severe vision problem may use a seeing eye dog, or someone with a spinal cord injury may occupy a wheelchair, whereas people with invisible disabilities have no visible aids or obvious defining characteristics.

Types Of Invisible Disabilities

The Invisible Disabilities Association states, “There are thousands of (invisible) illnesses, disorders, diseases, dysfunctions, birth defects, impairments and injuries that can be debilitating.” A few examples of invisible disabilities include any type of moderate-to-severe arthritis, autoimmune conditions such as lupus, mental disabilities like schizophrenia or severe anxiety, diabetes, heart ailments, seizure disorders, respiratory diseases, bowel conditions, brain injuries, among many others.

Facts And Figures

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of the American population lives with one or more chronic health issues, though many of which are not considered disabilities. The CDC states that arthritis is the most common disability with over 53 million sufferers countrywide with some form of the disease. Moreover, The Invisible Illness Association asserts that over 26 million Americans have what constitutes a severe disability and of that group only 6 million use crutches, canes, wheelchairs or other obvious aids. Therefore, a whopping 74% of Americans with severe debilitating conditions have disabilities of the invisible variety.

Human Nature – Seeing Is Believing

Unfortunately, there is a social stigma surrounding invisible illness in our society. You’ve heard the old adage ‘seeing is believing’. In actuality, that should rarely be the case. According to Media Toolkit (a non-profit awareness and education group), invisible disabilities are often met with hostility. “People with some kinds of invisible disabilities such as chronic pain or sleep disorders are often accused of faking or imagining their disabilities.” This unhealthy attitude is unfair and needs an overhaul.

Mental Illness Stigma

Psychology Today asserts that such discrimination and prejudicial behavior is unfortunately commonly associated with mental illness. “In relation to social stigma, studies have suggested that stigmatizing attitudes towards people with mental health problems are widespread and commonly held.” This approach needs to change as well, as these negative attitudes trivialize the struggles of so many people who suffer daily, often leaving them feeling alienated from others.

Confusion? Understandable. Prejudice? Not So Much.

It is reasonable that some people are confused about what constitutes a disability. As the statistics show, just because someone has an illness does not mean they have a disability. Often people who appear to be incapacitated are not, while people who appear perfectly healthy are actually quite restricted. Many people feel they know someone who “capitalizes on an illness” or exaggerates, but looks truly can be deceiving and our initial assessments of a person’s situation are often completely wrong.

Clearing Up The Confusion

The Invisible Disabilities Association addresses these misconceptions. “Just because a person has a disability, does not mean they are disabled. Many living with these challenges are still fully active in their work, families, sports or hobbies. Some with disabilities are able to work full or part time, but struggle to get through their day, with little or no energy for other things. Others are unable to maintain gainful or substantial employment due to their disability, have trouble with daily living activities and/or need assistance with their care.” So while we may interact with people who have invisible illnesses, we never really know what living someone else’s life truly entails.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 – a revolutionary theory explaining invisible illnesses in a relatable way, as well as some resources for people suffering with chronic disabilities.