Mental Health: Facts & Statistics
Depression / Suicide Myths & Facts
Myth: Teens who claim to be depressed are weak and just need to pull themselves together. There's nothing anyone else can do to help.
Fact: Depression is not a weakness, but a serious health disorder. Both young people and adults who are depressed need professional treatment. A trained therapist or counselor can help them learn more positive ways to think about themselves, change behavior, cope with problems, or handle relationships. A physician can prescribe medications to help relieve the symptoms of depression. For many people, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is beneficial.
Myth: Talking about depression only makes it worse.
Fact: Talking through feelings may help a friend recognize the need for professional help. By showing friendship and concern and giving uncritical support, you can encourage your friend to talk to his or her parents or another trusted adult, like a teacher or coach, about getting treatment. If your friend is reluctant to ask for help, you can talk to an adult-that's what a real friend will do.
Myth: Telling an adult that a friend might be depressed is betraying a trust. If someone wants help, he or she will get it.
Fact: Depression, which saps energy and self-esteem, interferes with a person's ability or wish to get help. And many parents may not understand the seriousness of depression or of thoughts of death or suicide. It is an act of true friendship to share your concerns with a school guidance counselor, a favorite teacher, your own parents, or another trusted adult.
Myth: Teenagers don't suffer from "real" mental illness; they are just moody.
Fact: We now know that teenagers and even younger children, can and do suffer from mental illness. One in ten children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment, but fewer than 20 percent of these children receive treatment. Without treatment, schoolwork may suffer, normal family and peer relationships may be disrupted, and violent acts may occur. In fact, depression may lead to suicide, which is the third leading cause of death among young adults. However, recent studies indicate that 60 percent of depressed teenagers will improve with modern treatments.
Myth: Depression is a part of aging.
Fact: Research shows that depression is not a normal part of aging, but that it is relatively prevalent among older people and can have serious adverse consequences. Nearly 5 million of the 32 million Americans age 65 and older suffer from clinical depression. While only 13 percent of the U.S. population, individuals ages 65 and older account for 20 percent of all suicide deaths, with white males being most vulnerable. And older persons with other serious health problems (strokes, hip fractures, heart conditions) depression may delay recovery, cause refusal of treatment, and lead to excessive disability and even death. However, effective mental health treatment is available for older Americans suffering from mental illness.
Myth: Depression is a part of life that can be worked through without seeking help.
Fact: Depression is a diagnosable, treatable illness that affects 19 million adult Americans each year. It is a disorder of the brain that is characterized by serious and persistent symptoms such as changes in sleep, appetite, and energy; cognitive losses such as slowed thinking; and clearly discernible feelings like irritability, hopelessness, and guilt. The severity and duration of depression symptoms are clearly distinguishable from sadness and mood swings that are part of life. When untreated, depression can have serious consequences. Depression is the cause of over two-thirds of the 30,000 American suicides each year, and according to the World Health Organization, it is the leading cause of disability in the United States. However, there are effective treatments available that have proven to have 80 percent success rate for people diagnosed with depression.
Myth: Talk about suicide is an idle threat that need not be taken seriously.
Fact: People who admit to having thoughts and plans about suicide and people who have attempted suicide are at increased risk for completing suicide in the future. In a study of nearly 4,000 adults seeking psychiatric treatment, persons with a history of severe suicidal thoughts were 14 times more likely than other individuals to later commit suicide within four years. Research has shown that 90 percent of all suicide victims have had a mental or substance abuse disorder.
Suicide contagion is the term used to describe the harmful effects that can potentially result from exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors. In persons already at risk for suicide, direct or indirect exposure to suicide within one's family, one's peer group, or through media reports and portrayal can increase a persons risk of suicide, especially those who are adolescents or young adults.
People displaying the following symptoms and warning signs are at greater risk of being adversely affected by this:
Improve Reporting and Portrayals of Suicidal Behavior, Mental Illness, and Substance Abuse in the Entertainment and News Media
Goal #9 of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention is an attempt to solve this problem. Research has shown that changing the way the media reports on instances of suicide can avoid the problem of suicide contagion, but much improvement remains to be done.
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Myths & Facts:
Specific Mental Illnesses: