Wednesday, January 5, 2011

People NOT Numbers

            Statistics are a way of bringing a problem in a given population to light.  Statistics are also a way for individuals to constructively understand an unseen trend in their area.   The National Institute of Mental Health is a good resource for mental health statistics.  The goal of the organization is to “transform the understanding and treatment of mental illness through research.”  In order to transform mental health in the United States individuals must understand the scope of the problem.

            Statistics can also be very frustrating for a mental health patient and their families.   As a family member I know that these individuals are NOT just numbers, they are people we love.  Without forgetting this fact, I would like to discuss some of the statistics presented by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Bipolar Disorder
o   2.6 % of U.S. Adult Population
o   Most prevalent in 18 to 29 year olds  -This is the time when you are supposed to be going to college, falling in love, starting careers, and enjoying life.  But for many Americans this is the age when their minds begin to unravel.

o   1.1% of U.S. Adult Population
o   60% of adults with schizophrenia used a health care facility in the last year – The 2010 census reports U.S. population has reached 308,745,538 people. If 1.1% of these people are schizophrenic then about 3,339,200 people suffer from schizophrenia, granted this number is probably too large since the NIMH estimate is based on the adult population.  The U.S census website at did not have information about the U.S. adult population.

Years of Life Lost
In almost every book I read with the subject of mental illness there is a discussion about years of life lost among mental health patients.  These years could be lost to illness itself, complications of medications, loss of productivity, or suicide.
Here are the stats:
o   Missouri 2000: meant no. years of life lost 27.9
o   Texas 1999: mean no. years of life lost 29.3
o   This is the difference between 25 and 50 or 50 and 75
o   A lot of life happens in 25-30 years time

o   In 2007 suicide rates were 11.26 per 100,000 people in the U.S.
o   More than 35,000 people died by suicide in 2007
o   Suicide was ranked 4th in the top 10 causes of death in 2007 for individuals age 18 to 65
o   For all age groups suicide is ranked 10th in 2007 out of the top 15 causes of death

 Many individuals battle mental illness every day, yet it is still stigmatized in our society.  I just finished reading The Center Cannot Hold:  My Journey Through Madness by Elyn Saks.  Elyn is schizophrenic and has dealt with psychotic episodes for over 20 years.  She also has had breast cancers.  After experiencing both cancer and psychosis Saks writes:  “When you have cancer, people send flowers; when you lose your mind, they don’t”

Let’s send our own sort of flowers:  tolerance, education, and advocacy.  Help bring support to all the individuals dealing with mental illness all over the world.

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  1. When there is little information on the causes of mental illness, what does persistent focus on the associated stigma accomplish? Does it reinforce it?

    For example, this was listed under your response for manic-depression: "This is the time when you are supposed to be going to college, falling in love, starting careers, and enjoying life. But for many Americans this is the age when their minds begin to unravel."

    While you are correct in pointing out the time period when BP/MD persons start having issues, to me you are reinforcing a negative societal perception. Here is my translation of the aforementioned quoted sentence, "When bipolar people are supposed to be be leading "normal" lives, they are instead going crazy."

    I hope we have another "labeling" change soon like we did from Manic-Depression to bipolar. Not a big fan of the current tag. I am much more dynamic than that. If someone asked me what my problem is, I would say that I have an energy management issue, a lot of that being metaphysical. The mentally ill don't need pity, they need people to try to understand the different mind frames that "normal" people do not experience. Most people take for granted the autopilot in their brain that keeps them in their "reality". Lack of information is a killer as is our nascent understanding of the brain.

    So until I die I will continue to grab my crotch and throw up the finger to the part of society that "stigmatizes" me. Fuck them. I know things that they don't. I am stronger than them in many ways. If you think I a weird, fine, I probably am. At least I'm comfortable with my demons.

    Also, I think it is really cool what both of you are doing. AS someone who lives in this realm, it is great to see two smart people learning and sharing information pertaining to MI. Thank you. I appreciate it.

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  3. I would like to sometime write for you about how I have integrated my "illness" into my life, become comfortable with it, and use it to my advantage. The trick would be not to write a novel. There is too much focus on the negative aspects of mental illness.

    Typo in the previous, didn't know it would leave the remains.