Three out of four Texans report that a mental health issue affects someone they care about.
Depression costs Texas employers $15.3 billion overall annually, including $10.9 billion for healthcare, $1.7 billion in absenteeism and $2.7 billion in lost productivity.
Mental illness affects us all.
Through an initiative called Okay to Say, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute in Dallas is working to bring people together to increase awareness of mental health issues and the effective treatments available.
Launched earlier this year, Okay to Say is asking people to talk openly about living with mental illness.
The reason? The more we talk about mental illness, the more we can help people find effective treatment.
Yes, there is help available in almost all cases, just as there is help for those who have other physical illnesses.
Mental illness does not discriminate. It affects people regardless of age, race, religion or status.
It is not a weakness, lack of character, but rather, a disease.
Those living with mental illness (both the person and the family) often feel ostracized and marginalized. They end up feeling their only choice is to hide their disease.
Too often, it takes a crisis before people get help.
Two-thirds of people who have a diagnosable mental health condition fail to receive treatment, and close to half of young people ages 8 to 15 do not receive care.
Studies show that on average it takes five years before people seek medical care for even the most severe of conditions (psychoses).
So it is no surprise that mental illness is a leading cause of disability.
When untreated, the consequences can lead to unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration, premature death due to other untreated health conditions, and even suicide.
While the rate of positive response varies depending on the condition, research increasingly shows that receiving treatment from your pediatrician or family doctor works just as well for routine cases of depression.
Not knowing to take even this simple action makes the epidemic of unmet need for treatment even more tragic.
One recent study found that only one in 10 people with a major depressive disorder received adequate treatment. Among those who did receive adequate treatment two-thirds recovered.
The first step in getting help is to talk about it.
Unfortunately, most people find that difficult. Nine out of 10 Texans think it is harder to talk about a mental illness than a physical issue.
The personal stories shared on the Okay to Say website demonstrate just how powerful the simple act of opening up can be.
“I’ve dealt with mental illness and now I am helping my daughter navigate the same challenges. Part of the struggle is the secrecy and fearing judgment. So glad this movement is underway,” wrote Stacy.
“I was treated for depression many years ago. And, as so many others, I have prayed with and cried with friends and family dealing with depression caused by post par tum [sic], death, divorce, or even life. I have shared in the mental illnesses and treatments of three family members. If we take a moment to look around, we realize this touches all of us,” wrote Nan.
The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute is a nonpartisan organization that supports the implementation of policies and programs to help Texans obtain effective, efficient mental healthcare when and where they need it.
Andy Keller is CEO of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.