“Your mental health matters, and it’s OK to reach out for help.”
That simple message needs to be repeated until it is accepted as a truth — basic and incontrovertible as the alphabet and gravity.
Gov. Tom Wolf said it Thursday when announcing a public outreach campaign and efforts to improve mental health services.
Those services are important. Even more important, though, is the need to make mental health as acceptable to admit and discuss as a broken leg or appendicitis.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in 11 Americans will suffer post-traumatic stress at some point. Women are twice as likely to deal with it.
The National Institute of Mental Health puts the number of people experiencing depression at about 16.2 million per year, or about 6.7% of the population. Anxiety is even higher at 40 million or 18% of Americans. There are 3.5 million diagnosed with schizophrenia and 5.7 million with bipolar disorder.
Overall, Johns Hopkins Medicine says one in four of us are coping with a mental health disorder at any given time. Compare that to a high of one in seven who are diagnosed with the flu in a bad year, or one in 14 identified diabetics.
Mental illness is as common as the common cold, and the impact hits everything.
Military suicides hit a record high in 2018, according to the Department of Defense. Police department numbers are too high as well.
“You have more officers killing themselves than are killed in the line of duty, and that’s why we have to do anything in our power to help them,” said Pittsburgh police Chief Scott Schubert.
The problem, he told the Tribune-Review, is that people aren’t asking for that help.
There should be no stigma around getting help for depression, any more than there is for chemotherapy. There should be no more shame for seeking help with PTSD than for calling an ambulance for a heart attack.
That has to be something everyone supports. It can’t just be a political fix or a medical one. It has to be supported by employers and communities and families, because treating one person can have a positive effect on the surrounding people, and not treating that person can have tragic consequences.
Mental health matters. It’s OK to ask for help. And it’s important to show people that help will be provided.