Well+Good Council member Drew Ramsey, MD, a practicing psychiatrist, is passionate about the need to remove the stigma associated with mental health—and with asking for help. Here, just in time for Mental Illness Awareness Week, he shares some real talk about the prevalence of mental illness.
I’m a psychiatrist in active clinical practice in New York City and have been for the last 16 years. I also work with the American Psychiatric Association to help reach more people, save more lives, and shed light and science on the confusing and often painful arena of mental illness and emotional health.
This week, thousands of Americans will die from mental illness unnecessarily. The first step to changing that is through awareness.
Whether you’re an ally or coping with mental illness yourself, here’s what you need to know.
1. Your life is deeply affected by mental illnesses
The only way to prevent and recover from mental illness is to understand these complex challenges that stem from the brain and influence our moods, worries, memory, and sense of reality. We are currently losing the fight. In 2016, there were 40,000 suicides and 65,000 deaths from opioid addiction.
By last count, nearly 19 percent of adults in the U.S. has a psychiatric illness. If you think you or your family are immune, you need to wake up before the funeral. Smart people, rich people, pretty people, wellness people—everyone is at risk.
2. Treatment works
I’ve worked in psychiatric inpatient units, community clinics, emergency rooms, and private practice. Before I was an NYC psychiatrist, I was an Indiana farm boy. I have zero tolerance for shit that doesn’t work. If I didn’t see people recover, I would quit.
Yes, there is a debate about how effective medications can be and there are concerns of over-prescription (I’m personally and professionally thankful for medications, FYI.) But medications are just one of an array of interventions. There are huge missed opportunities for treatment ranging from Alcoholics Anonymous (and NA, CA, Al-Anon, and more) communities to free clinics to emergency rooms dedicated to mental health. Bottom line is this: Psychiatrists save lives for a living just like all physicians. And less dramatically, but just as importantly, we improve lives. The earlier you speak to a mental health professional, the better. But it is never too late.
– Drew Ramsey
Photo source – Flickr.com