Scream by Edvard Munch (1895)
It’s a New Year. Let’s make a resolution. One that we’ll keep.
What if anyone who has ever suffered from a mental illness, anyone who has ever had a family member who suffered from a mental illness, and anyone who has ever had a relative, a neighbor, or a co-worker who suffered from a mental illness, followed the advice of the 1976 movie Network, stepped forward and screamed, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore”?
There would be a lot of noise, but I think we’d all be better off.
I think most of us would be astounded to see how many of us there really are. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year.1 When applied to the 2012 U.S. Census estimate, this figure translates to approximately 62.9 million adults.
But the number of people whose lives are affected by mental disorders doesn’t stop there. With an average household size of 2.74 people, an estimated 109.6 million adults and children live with an adult who has a mental disorder, bringing the total of people having a front-row seat to the challenges of adult mental illness to 172.6 million people – 55% of our population.
That’s a lot of people. They could make a lot of noise.
If we add the 21% of children with a diagnosable mental illness to the mix, the number of Americans living in a household with someone suffering from mental illness exceeds 200 million, nearly two-thirds of all Americans.
Of course, the effects of mental illness don’t stop at our doorsteps. No, the mental illnesses of our relatives, our neighbors, and our co-workers have the potential to affect every one of us.
If we all were to start making noise, maybe things would change.
But first, we have to stop hiding. We have to stop being ashamed, feeling guilty, and worrying that we will be stigmatized and bad things will happen to us if we talk about mental illness.
The numbers are in our favor. There are many more people in the United States who have experience with mental illness than who do not.
I’ve started this blog to make noise, and I hope you’ll join me.
If we don’t make noise, nothing will change. People with mental illness will not get the treatments they need. They will continue to live in our prisons and on our streets. Brilliant contributions they could make to our world will be lost. Family members will continue to watch in horror as their loved ones spin out of control. Relatives, neighbors, and co-workers will continue to fear going to school, to work, and to the movies.
The All in the Family blog will examine the effects that a host of mental illnesses such as mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, ADHD, autism, and personality disorders has on the people who suffer from them, their family members, and our communities. I’ll comment on current events as well as on findings from the latest research studies. I’ll discuss how people with mental illness are treated in other countries.
Mental illness has never been a stranger to me. As a child, I watched my mother struggle with manic depression. As an adult, I got a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies. Then, I spent my career researching the effects of mental illness on families while helping my adopted daughter combat ADHD, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
For more than 40 years, I kept my mother’s and my daughter’s mental illnesses secret. That wasn’t such a good idea, but I’ll talk about why I did that and why it didn’t turn out well in future posts.
I hope you’ll add your opinion to the mix, making this blog a place where we can talk.
My plan is to post here each Wednesday.
Our silence has prevented us from making progress. It’s time to do things differently.
But first we have got to get mad. Together.
Leave a comment below and tell me you’re angry!
Happy New Year.
1. Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.