To the editor:
Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has taken place in May, and yet today Mental Health is the most important issue or threat that we are facing. Mental health problems affect nearly every family, but as a nation, we have too often struggled to have an open and honest conversation about these issues. Misperceptions, fears of social consequences, discomfort associated with talking about these issues with others, and discrimination all tend to keep people silent. Yet, when help is received, most people with mental illness can and do recover and lead happy, productive, and full lives.
Mental health conditions are more common than we realize, mainly because people don’t talk about them. Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. These conditions make day-to-day living and relating to others challenging.
A critical realization for anyone who may be struggling with mental health conditions or concerns, however large or small, is to know they are not alone. However, one in six youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Fifty percent of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
Mental illness can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or socioeconomic status. Mental health disorders account for more disability than any other illness, including cancer and heart disease, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is everywhere – in our schools, homeless population, in prisons, among veterans and seniors and in the number of people overdosing each year and those who tragically die from suicide.
Prior to Covid, 1 in 5 people struggled with mental illness. Today that number has risen to 2 out of 5, amplifying the nation’s youth mental health crisis. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states, “We need to get ahead of the looming widespread mental health concerns coming to the forefront due to all the pressures and tragedy of the pandemic. This is a defining moment rife with change and conflict on multiple fronts, and an opportunity to come together collaboratively to improve mental health for all.”
To this end, throughout the month of May, We the People Warwick (WTPW) will provide weekly articles to our social media platforms to give residents a chance to learn more about mental health issues. In the fall, WTPW will host a community Mental Health Forum to provide public education and awareness that increase our understanding of mental health, illness, and resiliency and lead to building Warwick as a community of hope for anyone concerned with mental well-being.
Beverly Braxton, On Behalf of WTPW