The World Health Organization reports that depressive disorders are a leading cause of global disease burden–that’s over 322 million people struggling to cope with normal life activities every day.1 Mental health, as opposed to other health conditions, has distinctive challenges because of the stigma and taboos surrounding how people feel about their own or others’ diagnosis and treatment. Not wanting to acknowledge or discuss mental health has led to delays in seeking care, dismissal of symptoms, and the inability to offer appropriate support to those in need. However, the movement towards social acceptability is growing as health campaigns continue to spread awareness and disperse fears.
Thanks to the Internet, more people than ever can share their personal stories about mental illness, bringing these conditions to light and helping them feel less alone. For example, Mind, a United Kingdom nonprofit organization dedicated to mental health support, hosts letters on their website written by people affected by mental health conditions. One contributor describes the effect of depression:
“Depression… it just eats you up from the inside out. It’s like a monster inside your head that takes over. The worst thing is to know that my family and friends were doing all they could, yet I still felt so lonely.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the largest grassroots mental health organization in the United States, also shares personal stories to help spread awareness and provide support. This contributor describes her depression:
“You know that feeling you have in your gut when you are about to cry? That is what it is like. All the time. My brain tells me that I am alone, that I can’t be loved, that no one really wants me around, and worst of all that no one will understand me.”
These stories help to sympathize and empathize with those who have a mental health condition. Whereas shared experience validates and creates acceptance, it is important for health care providers and case managers to understand the realities of coping with a hidden condition that blankets all aspects of life for those with depressive disorders.
Mental health conditions also impact those near and dear to people with depressive disorders. Caregivers are often worried, feel helpless and burdened, and are distressed themselves. A personal story shared on Beyond Blue, an Australian mental health alliance, highlights that caring for someone with a mental disorder has its own set of challenges:
“At 17 my daughter decided to leave home. Watching her struggle to access appropriate mental health services was distressing. She was really floundering. The hardest part of this journey was giving up the role of carer and letting my daughter go out there and do it for herself.”
Specific to the disability industry, both short- and long-term cases may become more complex if mental health conditions arise and go untreated during recovery from a physical disability. This is further complicated by the taboos about accessing mental health, especially in the workplace where employees may fear losing their jobs or feel self-conscious. As stated by the Mayo Clinic, all too often people feel ashamed about their depression, but it seldom gets better without treatment and may get worse.2
As your organization develops strategies to support individuals with mental health conditions, consider stakeholder groups including patients, providers, payers, and caretakers. Each of these groups can help support care-seeking behaviors as well as facilitate healthy treatment behaviors. Mental illness can happen to anyone at any age and is more common than you realize, affecting up to 25% of the world’s population during their lives.3 There is a strong likelihood that someone you know or love is experiencing a mental health disorder, and they shouldn’t have to go it alone—we are truly all in this together.
Read more about evidence-based recommendations on the diagnosis and treatment of depressive disorders on MDGuidelines.com.
- Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017, https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/254610/WHO-MSD-MER-2017.2-eng.pdf.
- Depression: Supporting a Family Member or Friend. Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2018, mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20045943.
- Mental Disorders Affect One in Four People. World Health Organization; 2013, who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/.
Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide medical advice. ReedGroup does not provide medical services. Consult a physician for medical advice on this or any other topic.