Eliminate Outdated Attitudes on Mental Health
Spring is a time for new beginnings. This year, let’s celebrate the season with a new approach to America’s mental health — one that will save Americans much shame and suffering even as it offers fresh, exciting ways to advance U.S. medical treatment.
Scientists are learning amazing things about the brain, mood disorders and mental illness. Studies are proving the connections between mental health and physical well-being.
Yet many outdated attitudes remain. Millions of American adults and teen-agers still worry that if they seek care for minor or major mental health problems, they might lose their jobs, their housing or their health benefits.
Illnesses centered in the brain can range from the minor upheaval of a temporary mood disorder to a serious chronic condition such as autism or schizophrenia. The spectrum of disorders is matched only by the spectrum of people affected by mental illness: During any given year, 51 million Americans will have a mental disorder.
I know how important good mental health care can be because I personally benefited from it.
My husband and I already have shared our positive experience with family counseling after our son’s 1989 automobile accident. But when the crisis was over and all was better, I found out something many women discover at such turning points: I had been taking care of the emergency so well that I had not been taking care of myself.
I needed to talk about what I had gone through. I turned to a trusted counselor who saw that my sadness called for extra support and recommended that I be treated for depression. I am so glad I followed her advice. The conversations and treatment let me return to my old self and do a better job as a worker, wife and mother.
Depression can affect anyone at any age. A high school student named Susan told me, “Kids who are depressed or suicidal usually aren’t obvious about it. They keep smiling and don’t give any clues.” At least, her sister didn’t before she tried to take her own life.