Keenan Blog

Mental Health Awareness Month – You Are Not Alone

May 18, 2021

When I have the opportunity to write about the topic of mental health, it’s personal. Mental illness has been part of most of my life. I’ve worked through periodic episodes of depression and anxiety since high school and my wife manages a chronic mental condition. It’s not something we hide because it’s not healthy for us to make it a secret. Concealing it would only add to the stigma that many like us encounter, discouraging too many from getting treatment. With the right help, we have successfully navigated 42 years of marriage and a long career that has led to a satisfying semi-retirement.

I share this information because, if you or a loved one experiences a mental illness, I want you to know that you are not alone. Mental illness is not a personal failure or an inadequacy – it’s an illness. It’s treatable and there is no shame in seeking help for it. Few of us can get through it on our own and that’s okay. Again, you are not alone.

Despite federal legislation enacted over the past 25 years officially declaring mental health parity, prevailing attitudes still get in the way of dealing with the mental illness epidemic. Yes, I said, “epidemic.” Take a look at these facts and statistics compiled by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), illustrating how the prevalence of mental illness affects all of us:

Impacts on Individuals

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, but less than half get treatment.
  • 1 in 20 U.S. adults experiences a serious mental illness each year, but less than two-thirds get treatment.
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth experience a mental health condition each year, but only half get treatment.
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10–34 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
  • The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35% since 1999.

Impacts on our Communities

  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.
  • Transgender adults are nearly 12x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
  • The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.
  • 55% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist.
  • 3.8% of U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2019 (9.5 million people).
  • Mental illness and substance use disorders are involved in 1 out of every 8 adult emergency department visits.
  • 20.5% of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. have a serious mental health condition.
  • 37% of adults incarcerated in the state and federal prison system have a diagnosed mental illness.
  • 70.4% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosed mental illness.
  • 41% of Veteran’s Health Administration patients have a diagnosed mental illness or substance use disorder.

We’ve made a lot of progress in removing the stigma of mental illness, but as the numbers above bear out, there is much more work to be done. The strange circumstances of the past year have been a setback due to delayed or deferred treatment, on top of the mental toll the Coronavirus pandemic itself has caused. Isolation, uncertainty, separation from family and friends, and grief have added to the issue.

As difficult as it has been, I know that I am not alone. And neither are you.


About Tim Crawford
Tim Crawford is an independent consultant and contributing writer for Keenan. After a 21 year career at Keenan, where he served as the Vice President of Marketing Communication, Tim relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico and became a freelance writer. In his spare time, he is an amateur radio operator and a volunteer storm spotter for the National Weather Service.