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The Rates of Mental Illness are Increasing

Have you noticed lately that more and more people are talking about mental illness? It is in the media, and in the workplace. Discussions of mental health related concerns are increasing to meet people where they are when struggling with mental health concerns.

It is likely that you or someone close to you suffers from a mental illness. Especially since the start of the pandemic, mental health diagnoses have been increasing worldwide. But, things were getting worse before that too.

According to Bayan Mental Health,

  • Between 2017 and 2018, 19% of adults experienced a mental illness, an increase of 1.5 million adults with mental illnesses from the previous year.2

  • Rates of depression increased by 52% between 2005 and 2017 among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old.

  • Rates of depression increased by 63% between 2009 and 2017 in young adults aged 18 to 25 years old.

  • The rate of suicide-related thoughts and outcomes increased by 47% from 2008 to 2017 among young adults.

  • In 2019, there was an estimated 51.5 million adults (20.6%) aged 18 and older in the U.S. with AMI.

  • AMI was higher among U.S. females (24.5%) than males (16.3%) in 2019.4

  • Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 had the highest prevalence of AMI (29.4%) compared to adults between the ages of 26 to 49 years (25%) and 50 and older (14.1%).

  • 13.1 million U.S. adults aged 18 and older had an SMI in 2019, making up 5.2% of all U.S. adults.

  • SMI was high among U.S. females (6.5%) than males (3.9%) in 2019.4

  • In 2019, SMI was more prevalent among adults aged 18 to 25 years (8.6%) compared to adults aged 26 to 49 years (6.8%) and those aged 50 and older (2.9%) in 2019.

There can be a variety of reasons why this is happening, including the pandemic itself, as well as other societal factors. Recently, the Surgeon General of the United States declared that there is an epidemic of loneliness. This can be a contributing factor to increased anxiety and depression, because people need relationships with others for social support.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health conditions are increasing worldwide. In recent times the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the increased use of social media have been implicated. Contrarily some think increasing mental health problems are a myth.

Increased use of social media to meet our needs for social connection can be problematic. This can happen for several reasons:

  • Comparisons between yourself and what you see on social media

  • More shallow connection than in-person

  • Influencers promote unrealistic beauty standards

  • Increased cyber bullying

When most of our socializing happens online, it can become a cause of stress. People have less close friendships than we did 20 years ago which can partially be attributed to the use of social media.

Also, what we see on social media is only what people want us to see. It isn't an accurate portrayal of people's lives. People share their good times, but not their bad times, so you may think everyone else's life is perfect when yours isn't. The problem is, this isolates us and makes us feel like we don't have as good of a life as other people.

Then, there is the rise of influencer culture. This especially can effect women and young girls, who many of these ads are targeted to. When people use filters on their selfies online, it makes you think that everyone is so much prettier, thinner, etc. than you are, which can be damaging to self-esteem.

People are more cruel online, because they don't really think about the consequences of what they say to other people. This can embolden some people to say mean things to others online. They feel like there are no consequences. But the person on the other side of the screen has real feelings, and mean online comments can really hurt!

All these reasons can contribute to poorer mental health than in the past. We are feeling a constant pressure to respond to notifications immediately, and some of what we see can be really negative. So, if you are feeling down or depressed, it may be a good idea to take a bit of a break from social media and reach out to friends in person.

When we are online, it is important to make sure that we are speaking to others in a kind way, and being mindful of what we say and the impact that it can have. It is also important to teach your kids and teens about internet safety, and what to do if they experience bullying.

By being smarter about what we are putting into our minds, we may have better feelings about ourselves and the environment around us. In addition to disconnecting from social media, it is important to make sure that you are seeking help from a professional if you are experiencing mental health symptoms.

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