Note: This article is 1 of a 3 part series on Mental Health & the Workplace.  


The other night, the subject of mental health came up in a group chat with my closest girlfriends from high school.  (I mean, these ladies are more like family than friends, if you know what I mean).  There are 6 of us, four married with children and two single and without kids.

The discussion was about how their now teenage children are so much more exposed to mental health issues than we ever were at their age. 

The kids are either dealing with it firsthand themselves or have close friends who are. 

And I haven’t been able to think about much else since.

Because even though mental health is being taken more seriously now by many, there is still an associated stigma and a ton of myths and misinformation circulating on the topic.  

So between the recent dialogue with my friends and the growing messaging around the importance of self-care in popular culture, the topic is very timely.

With this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to bring your attention to a few important facts about mental health. how prevalent mental health concerns are in the U.S., and how it impacts your work life.


Fact 1: 

Mental illness in the U.S. is common.  20.6% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2019 (51.5 million people).  This translates to 1 in 5 people.  

Let that sink in for a second.

This means that whenever you are in a meeting, facilitating a FaceBook or Instagram Live, standing in line at the grocery store or anywhere else more than 5 people are gathered, there is a high probability that at least one of those individuals is dealing with mental health issues.


Fact 2: 

Serious mental illnesses can be debilitating and life altering.

No type of mental illness should be discounted or ignored.  But mental health practitioners do acknowledge that some illnesses can be more severe than others.  

These are known as serious mental illnesses or SMIs.  

An SMI is a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder that significantly impairs a person or limits more than one of their major life activities (i.e., caring for oneself, working, breathing, eating, sleeping, etc.).  Click here to access the full list of major life activities recognized by the U.S. government.

13.1 million U.S. adults had an SMI in 2019. That is 5.2% of the entire U.S. population or 1 in 10 people.


Fact 3: 

The prevalence of mental health illness amongst U.S. adults varies by type of illness or disorder. Based on what has been reported, for the past several years, average rates have been as follows:

  • Anxiety Disorders: 19.1% (estimated 48 million people)
  • Major Depressive Episode: 7.8% (19.4 million people)
  • Bipolar Disorder: 2.8% (estimated 7 million people)
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6% (estimated 9 million people)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2% (estimated 3 million people)
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.4% (estimated 3.5 million people)
  • Schizophrenia: <1% (estimated 1.5 million people)

It is not uncommon for a person to be dealing with more than one diagnosed (or undiagnosed) mental health issue at a time.


Fact 4:

More Americans are proactively seeking mental health care and treatment.  The internet has made mental health information more readily available to the general public. In addition, celebrities and social media users are using their platforms to talk more openly about mental health concerns.   

Even health care providers are making more of a mind-body connection in their practices rather than solely focusing on physical health.

Broader general awareness has also resulted in a substantial increase in people addressing mental health concerns.  

Approximately 45% of U.S. adults with mental illnesses received treatment in 2019.

Even though that number is a drastic improvement over years before, more than half of the population who need psychological care and support are still left to fend on their own.


Fact 5:  

Untreated mental health concerns can serve as a gateway to other serious life issues including substance abuse, loss of earnings, incarceration, and suicide.

It is impossible to wish mental illness away.

And because we are complex multifaceted human beings, attempts to ignore mental health concerns will not surprisingly have negative impacts on other areas of our lives.


Final Thoughts.

There are three key points you should walk away with:

1.Mental Health in America is a significant concern.  This fact can no longer be denied or ignored.

The numbers speak for themselves.

2.Valid information is available and at your fingertips about different kinds of mental health issues and related treatment options.  

Health care providers are able to share relevant facts about most mental illnesses. 

But I suggest that you also seek information from accredited national organizations and agencies. 

Getting information from a variety of objective sources will help bolster your personal knowledge on the subject.

Start with any of the resources below to learn more about mental illness and treatments:

American Psychological Association

The National Institute of Mental Health

3.When you are ill, you need to address both your physical and mental health implications.  One is not more important than the other since your mind and body must work together for you to thrive.

If you or someone you know ever experiences severe and debilitating mental health issues, dial 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

If you’re seeking care for less urgent symptoms, then you can:

Finally, remember that an ongoing self-care practice can not only support you in higher daily functioning.  But it can also serve as preventative care for more serious physical and mental health concerns in the future.

Note: This post includes information about free mental health resources.  This post is not sponsored by any of the referred agencies.


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