National Wellness Week sparks awareness

1/5 of adults in the United States is currently experiencing a mental illness.
According to a 2012 study by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one out of five adults in the United States is currently experiencing a mental illness.

In previous centuries, the mentally ill have faced ridicule, torture and have been burned alive by religious figures who believed evil spirits possessed their minds. But over the years, these beliefs have changed because of scientific research and education about the brain. Despite this, discrimination has yet to fade entirely. UAA campus has efforts on campus, such as student organizations, counseling centers, support services and awareness week activities to make all students, regardless of ability.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, the prevalence of serious mental health conditions in young adults aged 18-25 years is almost double that of the general population.

Despite this, “People with mental illness represent, perhaps, one of the most deeply stigmatized groups in American culture,” mental health journalist Samantha Gluck said.

Sarah Johnson, Human Services major and president of the UAA Active Minds organization, aims to reduce the prejudice of mental health in the local community.

“There’s so much misunderstanding about the different mental disorders that it’s hard to get people to understand that you’re not acting out, that you really are okay, but there’s just something a little different about you,” Johnson said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, combating prejudice against mental illness should be a public health priority.

Though some are born with a hereditary predisposition for mental disorders, according to Psych Central associate editor, Margarita Tartakovsky there are many other biological, psychological and environmental ways a person could develop one.

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Karen Haddock, UAA Disability Accommodations coordinator, said many disabilities are hidden, “because not everybody would show up with a service animal, or using a cane or a walker, or … interpreters interpreting the lecture that’s happening.”

Johnson says not all solutions to hidden mental disorders are created equal.

“Some medications are very strong, and it’s hard to be a student when you’re under a lot of heavy medication,” she said.

For example, some of the listed side effects for antipsychotic pills, such as Abilify, include drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, anxiety and insomnia. One dose per day may help students with a variety of conditions, but it could also adversely affect their grades and educational goals as well.

The SAMHSA mental health campaign states if social acceptance was more widespread, young adults who suffer from mental illness would get the services they need earlier and become able to reach their full potentials. People who receive care early on have a better chance at recovery.

In order to combat the discrimination of mental disorders, SAMHSA is also working hard on its National Wellness Week initiatives, which will occur Sept. 16-22.

There will be campus activities throughout that week, which focus on eight dimensions of wellness — spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social, occupational, financial, physical and environmental.

SAMHSA’s message for its Wellness Week initiative is always to treat people with mental illness just as those with any other serious but treatable condition: with respect, compassion and empathy.

Information from PBS.org and SAMHSA. Graphics by Jenna! Roosdett
Information from PBS.org and SAMHSA.
Graphics by Jenna! Roosdett