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April 28, 2017 // WorkLife Wisdom: Increase your mental health awareness

It’s not a personal weakness! Mental health issues are often caused by biological factors such as brain chemistry imbalances, painful life experiences like trauma or abuse, or family histories of mental illness.

Do you realize how prevalent mental health conditions are in the people around you? It’s important to be sensitive to the mental health challenges that many others face.

Similarly, if you struggle with mental health problems, it helps to recognize that you’re not alone. People from all walks of life are impacted by mental health disorders (such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders) and substance abuse disorders (such as alcohol or drug dependence). In fact, one in five American adults experienced a mental health issue within the past year.

Our cultures traditionally negative stereotyping of people with mental health challenges often does damage to those who live with those conditions. If you learn that someone in your life is dealing with mental health problems, treat them with respect and understanding—not ridicule. Stigma related to mental illness causes needless shame and isolation, and can potentially cause people to deny their symptoms.

Treatment works, so it’s important to arrange for an evaluation if you or a household member struggles with daily activities. Call your EAP’s toll-free number (1-800-234-1327) or visit www.MagellanHealth.com/member for information and support.

Facts about mental health:

  • Approximately 44 million U.S. adults experience a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. Nearly 60 percent of theses disorders  are not treated.
  • About 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Friends and loved ones can make a big difference for someone with mental health problems. You can reach out and be available, encourage treatment, and help dispel negative stigmas.

Common stigmas toward mental illness:

Stigmas can be very damaging—as prejudice, rejection and discrimination are directed at people who seem “different.” Here are some common stigmas, and contrary truths, about those with mental illness.

  • We shouldn’t talk about mental illness. Not true. The less we talk about mental illness, the more of a mysterious “other” it becomes, and the less we’re able or willing to support those facing it.
  • People with mental illness are dangerous. Only 3-to-5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals with serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are more than 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population.
  • We’re already compassionate enough. One study found that 57 percent of adults without mental health symptoms believed that people are sympathetic toward people with mental illness. However, only 25 percent of adults with mental health symptoms believed that to be true.

Being more inclusive of those around you:
Accept others’ challenges
Being sympathetic to those around you can—bit by bit—help empower them and improve their quality of life. Take time to get to know individuals dealing with mental illness. Recognize that they are not their diagnosis; they have many gifts and talents to share.

Promote sensitivity
If someone uses harsh language or perpetuates negative stereotypes about others with behavioral challenges or disabilities, it’s OK to say something. Gently recommend that they use words more sensitively. If you have dealt with mental health issues and feel comfortable sharing your personal experiences, you can help educate people and help others with such challenges overcome shame and secrecy.

Use people-first language
Instead of using negatives such as “a mentally disturbed” or “crazy” person, say that the individual “has a mental health condition” or is “a person with a behavioral health disability.” Your language should refer to the kind of condition a person has, not what a person is.

Reach out when you need it: Your FAA WorkLife Solutions Program can provide you with confidential advice and counseling. Accessible 24/7, your FAA WorkLife Solutions Program offers many resources and services to help you and your family. Options available through the program include concierge services to help with everyday events needing your time and attention, child and elder care options, legal and financial services, in-person counseling, and much more. Call your program at 1-800-234-1327, TTY Users: 1-800-456-4006, or log on to www.MagellanHealth.com/Member to begin accessing these services today.

Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MentalHealth.gov, JustBetterCare.com.