Now is not the time to ignore your mental health

Here are 4 good reasons to take care of your mental health.

Millions of Americans are affected by mental health issues. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, about 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. had a diagnosable mental disorder. According to a report by the CDC, now more than 2 in 5 Americans admit struggling with mental or behavioral health issues, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or substance abuse. Ethnic minorities, younger adults, essential workers and unpaid caregivers reported experiencing worse mental health issues, increased substance use and more suicidal thoughts than other groups.

But although many people experience mental health issues, less than half (43.8%) received treatment in 2019, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). If you’re a minority, it’s even less likely you’ll get treatment. African Americans and Hispanic Americans use mental health services at about half the rate of Caucasian Americans, and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

What are some of the reasons for these differences? In addition to issues related to insurance, high deductibles and co-pays, there are disparities in the availability, accessibility and quality of mental health services for ethnic minorities. There is also a higher level of mental health stigma in minority populations and more belief that treatment doesn’t work.

Despite the difficulties of seeking or accessing mental health treatment, there are many reasons to stop ignoring your mental health. These include:

  • Physical health – Mental health issues can impair your physical health by increasing stress, causing sleep disturbances or even affecting your immune function.
  • Financial health – People with untreated mental health disorders may find it difficult to maintain a job and are often less productive while at work. This can lead to financial difficulties.
  • Family health – When an adult suffers from mental illness, children are often at greater risk for abuse, neglect and a range of behavioral and emotional issues.
  • Life expectancy – A series of studies have found that psychological distress is associated with an increased risk of death. Life expectancy may be lowered even in people with mild mental health issues.

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