Mental Health Care Needs to Be a Priority

Ignoring Mental Health Has Serious Repurcussions in Our Society

Written by Abby Barger

I recently found out that in my family, mental health is a recurring problem. I didn’t know that for years now, my uncle had to take pills just to be happy. Until my dad shared this story with me, mental illness was a topic I had always overlooked because like so many other Americans, I didn’t think that it applied to me. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration reports that one in four Americans have a mental disorder, but go untreated due to lack of knowledge. The plain and simple reality is that physical health occupies a more prominent place in the conscience of our country than mental health does, and this needs to change. 

The most basic reason we ignore mental illness is that there is a lack of physical evidence that someone is going through mental issues, so it is overlooked. In Forbes magazine, Robert J. Szczerba compares how we often baby people with illnesses like the flu, and asks why this isn’t the case for people with mental issues. Mentally sick people are often told to change their state of mind, and that it’s “just a rough patch”. Szczerba asks us to imagine how we would feel if this same insensitivity was shown to people with the flu. “Have you tried just not having the flu? Why can’t you just change your mindset about the situation. You’ll feel a lot better!” Obviously, it’s not that simple. In order to overcome the flu, we need medication, rest, and sometimes medical attention. And most people don’t realize that the same goes for mental illnesses as well.

Mental health issues continue to take a backseat in our society, as mental illness is not talked about nearly enough in the workplace or in schools across our country. We will take all the time we need to make sure our physique is in top notch shape before even thinking about strengthening our mind. But when we ignore our mental health, all other health areas of our life start to decline as well. Depression, anorexia, or anxiety may very well lead to a decline in nutrition and physical fitness. And this is just one example of the way that mental health affects every aspect of our lives. 

As a society, there are ways we can help, and there are even unknown laws protecting those with mental issues. The American Psychological Association states that in 2008, the Mental Health Parity Law was passed to establish that mental health, behavioral health, and substance abuse health must be treated and given the same attention as physical health policies. In 2014, a study was conducted to show that 90% of Americans didn’t know this law existed. So to ensure that this act is enforced, we must first educate ourselves and others about its very existence. We also need to show more sympathy for people with mental illnesses. If a short leave of absence is asked for due to mental health issues, it should be granted. Chances are that during the absence, that person will seek help so that when they return to work or school, their work will be more productive than it was previously. 

So next time you’re approached by a loved one about a mental health issue, treat it like the problem it is, because life is too precious to miss an opportunity to help due to lack of knowledge. This subject is touchy for most, including me. For my uncle and for the others in my family who have been affected, I decided to take on this topic, and help motivate others to widen their views on their own mental health and those around them.