6 Important Mental Health Facts + Why They Matter

Mental health statistics always surprise me.

As a blogger in this niche, they shouldn’t, because I reference them often.  But as much time as I spend reading them, every time I type them, they surprise me.

It really is startling how common mental illness is, and how broad the spectrum is.  From the slightly neurotic to those requiring extensive inpatient treatment, it affects more people than you might realize.

Do you know someone with mental illness? It is likely that you do. Recent statistics indicate that 1 in 5 American adults suffer from a mental health condition in a given year. That is 20% of the adult population. Because of this, many people are very curious about mental illness and the challenges it presents.

mental health facts

I was presented with a bunch of questions recently on social media, so I decided to do my best to answer some of them in a single blog post.

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Mental health facts

These questions and their subsequent answers are going to really help you to paint a picture in your mind of how common mental illness is and the types of people it affects.

What age does mental illness normally present?

According to the American Psychiatric Foundation, “50 percent of mental illness begins by age 14, and 3/4 begins by age 24.”

Most common mental illnesses always have warning signs you can look out for. Some of them are:

  • Sleep or appetite change
  • Mood change
  • Withdrawal
  • Problems thinking
  • Nervousness

If someone is having more than one of these symptoms, they should see a medical professional.

Why is there such a stigma attached to it?

I think there are a few reasons why the stigma still exists.

  • People fear the unknown. If someone is not educated about something, it is easy to imagine they might have some discomfort about it. I wonder if people do not educate themselves about mental illness because they are afraid they might discover they have symptoms.
  • People fear the “other.” There is a societal discomfort regarding things that are different than the norm. Like those made uncomfortable by other people’s beliefs, I think many feel the same way about people whose brains work differently.
  • It is not portrayed well in the media. I think Hollywood has come a long way. But there are still too many instances of stereotypical representations.

Will I always be on medication once diagnosed?

The fact of the matter is, those with mental health issues have chemical imbalances in their brain.  What does that mean? Well, our brains need to manufacture certain chemicals so that we can experience feelings of happiness and pleasure and calm.  Those with certain mental health conditions have brains that are deficient in that process.  This is why we take medicine.  Medicine helps our brain create the chemicals we need to be happy.

For this reason, it is likely that you will always be on medication.  That does not mean that are not stories of people who are able to manage their condition without medication.  But it is not very common, and I do not recommend it unless you are under the guidance of your doctor.

Can medication make my illness worse?

All medication has side effects.  Even over the counter medicine.  That is the sacrifice we make when we enter treatment.  But the cost of not being treated is much higher than the cost of side effects we might experience.

However, for the sake of disclosure, here are common side effects of a medicine frequently used to treat depression: Zoloft.

  • sleepiness
  • drowsiness
  • tired feeling
  • nervousness
  • sleep problems (insomnia)
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • skin rash
  • headache
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • upset stomach
  • stomach pain
  • dry mouth
  • changes in appetite
  • abnormal ejaculation
  • impotence
  • decreased sex drive
  • difficulty having an orgasm
  • dry mouth, and
  • weight loss.

I had to stop taking it and switch to another medication because it was causing some extreme fatigue, food sensitivities, and digestive issues.

facts about mental health, mental health statistics

Can I cope without medication?

As I mentioned, there are rare cases where people can manage their condition without medication.  There are some natural things you can do, such as proper nutrition, exercise, changing your circadian rhythms, supplements, etc.  However, I do not recommend taking this route without consulting a medical profession.  If it is really important to you to try this, do your research, and ask your doctor for guidance. Be your own advocate, but take care of yourself.

Are mental illnesses hereditary?

According to Mayo Clinic:

Mental illnesses, in general, are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors:

  • Inherited traits. Mental illness is more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness. Certain genes may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, and your life situation may trigger it.
  • Environmental exposures before birth. Exposure to environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illness.
  • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of your brain and body. When the neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and nerve systems change, leading to depression and other emotional disorders.

The article also provides some common risk factors to be aware of:

  • A history of mental illness in a blood relative, such as a parent or sibling
  • Stressful life situations, such as financial problems, a loved one’s death or a divorce
  • An ongoing (chronic) medical condition, such as diabetes
  • Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury), such as a violent blow to the head
  • Traumatic experiences, such as military combat or assault
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • A childhood history of abuse or neglect
  • Few friends or few healthy relationships
  • A previous mental illness

Why do these mental health facts matter?

We all need to be aware of them.  Obviously, they’re important if you live with mental health issues ourselves.  But what if you don’t?  Well, then you can use them to help those close to you that do!

It is our collective responsibility to live with empathy and awareness.  It doesn’t matter what your politics are.  Or your religion.  Or how you were raised.  It doesn’t matter what music you listen to.  Or what your favorite food is.  Or who your best friend is.

It doesn’t matter how you make money.  Or where you live.  Or how many kids you have.  It doesn’t matter if you prefer cats to dogs.  Or if you like the color blue.  

If you are an oxygen breathing human, it is up to you to make sure that the generation we are currently raising grows up in a safe, loving, and emotionally healthy environment.  We need to practice kindness on a daily basis, and not let so many people slip through the cracks of society.

So, share this post, and do your part to spread the word.  You might help more people than you think.

Thank you to those that provided questions for me to answer!  I hope this post illuminated some wisdom about mental health for anyone wanting to learn more. Tell me in the comments: What was the most interesting thing you learned?  Also, please make sure to share this article.

Don’t let these mental health statistics startle you into inaction.  Take action now.  Do some good.

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Related posts for mental health facts:

Mental Illness: How Do You Get Diagnosed?

How to explain depression, according to Twitter

What is anxiety?

7 Interest Facts About Anxiety

What to Expect at Your First Therapy Appointment

54 thoughts on “6 Important Mental Health Facts + Why They Matter”

  1. I personally believe in the effects of overthinking and how neurotransmitters work – I hadn’t been feeling well and the bad thoughts that come with it has made me lose weight, unintentionally…

    Thanks for the technical terms…we do need to understand brain functions to well, function properly.

    1. Hey Marie, you’re welcome! I think it helps demystify depression and anxiety, and erase some of the stigma, if we think about it in terms of biology. Just like we do with other illnesses. Thanks for reading!

  2. As a teacher, I see it so very often. It really is varied and also very common. I have become sensitive to it enough to understand somewhat, but still feel so limited in what I know.

  3. Your posts never disappoint that is for sure. I appreciated what you mentioned in the article about the question of whether or not one needs to be on medication for their entire life for the illness… as one with bipolar that is one that I struggled with for many many years of my life, but finally accepted the fact that chronic illnesses need continual treatment and that is how it goes. No shame in taking medication for asthma, heart disease, or diabetes. We just have to do what we have to do for our bodies to remain healthy. Loved how you pointed out the chemical imbalance in the brain and gave a thorough explanation to that. Understanding this is the key part of accepting the diagnosis. This all resonates true with me. Love it! Thanks for fighting the stigma too! I know how much work, humility and dedication that takes and I admire you for that.

    1. Aww thanks so much for this lovely comment! You are so kind. I hope I can keep fighting the stigma for as long as I can, and can make a difference for people.

  4. Thank you for being so honest about your own struggle with mental illness and ways of coping. It is so important for destigmatization. Way too many of us (me included) wait too long to seek help for our mental health issues. We would see someone immediately for similar physical health issues, but we wait or never act when it comes to mental health. It hurts so many people.

    1. You’re very welcome! We definitely need to keep being open to inspire others, and show them it’s okay to speak up. Thanks for reading, and take care.

  5. Thanks for writing about this important topic! Mental health problems run in my family for sure. And there is a huge stigma attached to it. I think the most dangerous stigma is the one where people tell you, “everybody has a hard time, you’re just not being strong enough.” I can’t tell you how many times I was told that growing up. The danger in this is it makes mentally ill people afraid to seek help.

    1. Ugh I hate that! “Lots of people have it worse.” NO ONE IS SAYING THEY DON’T, KAREN. LOL. I totally agree that it makes people afraid of speaking up. Hopefully us bloggers help change enough people’s perceptions that things improve. Thanks for reading!

  6. Thank you for sharing this. It is important to raise awareness about mental illness and I appreciate that you are taking the time to aware people about it. Sometimes negative stigmas surrounding mental health can be cultural too. I know in my culture of Sikhism, people don’t openly talk about mental health and even if they are suffering, they don’t say anything. You’re doing a great thing with this blog. Keep it up! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words! They’re much appreciated. I’m sorry there’s such stigma that still exist, but hopefully with each passing year, we can decrease it. Thank for reading!

  7. This was such a brilliant read, thank you for sharing. As someone who has Bipolar itโ€™s wonderful to see members of the blogging community using their platform to enlighten people on everything mental health can entail.

  8. Really really great post. I have โ€œlong termโ€ depression, so basically Iโ€™m not expected to ever โ€œget betterโ€, so I manage the condition. I agree with everything you say here ๐Ÿ‘

  9. Thank you for sharing your experience and such helpful information. Mental illness is evident in some of my family members, but no one talks about it. I think if we had more awareness and less of the stigma we would be able to have more compassion and help for those suffering from mental illness. Thanks for doing your part to help!

    1. I appreciate that. I do what I can for that very reason, because I spent too many years not feeling comfortable talking about it. I don’t want people to live in the shadows. Thanks for reading. Feel free to share!

  10. I suffer from severe anxiety and I wish I had known this at the beginning. So many young people struggling with mental health problems and not understanding what’s going to happen or how to properly deal with it. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    1. No problem! I’m sorry you live with anxiety. It’s not an easy thing to deal with. I hope you’ve found some things to help. Thanks for reading!

  11. It is hard to come forward and talk about mental illness, as there is so much negative stigma about it. You are brave for being so open about it. You are inspiring and helping many people. Thank you for answering these questions. I hope you keep trying to bring awareness to this.

  12. I always learn so much about mental illness from you – thank you for another very informative article. I feel like I’m really learning a lot from you – and removing the stigmas and “myths” I had in my mind from my own ignorance.

    1. Aww that is so kind! I really appreciate that more than I could say. Thank you for always leaving such thoughtful comments. I’m glad you’re learning a lot. ๐Ÿ™‚

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