Researchers have a variety of ways of measuring the prevalence of mental health problems (the number of cases in a population) and also the impact of mental health problems on the individuals and their communities (this is often referred to as the burden of disease). The World Health Organisation (WHO) has examined the global burden of disease in young people and found that of all the health problems that young people suffer from (young people in this case being 15 – 24 year olds) neuropsychiatric disorders (another way of describing mental health problems) is by far the most prominent all around the world1. The big players in the list of mental health problems are depression, schizophrenia, substance misuse (drug and alcohol problems), bi-polar, and panic disorders.
Mental health problems are the leading cause of disability in young people all over the world. If you’ve had a mental health problem you will know it really is a disability! It stops you from doing things. It sucks away parts of your life.
But how often do we hear about the importance of addressing mental health problems in young people? The mental health problems we have mentioned here are quite serious, but many of our mental health problems may not be this serious but still cause us a lot of pain and worry. It is worthwhile addressing these problems early and maybe this can prevent things escalating and becoming a serious problem down the track.
Mental health problems attract quite a lot of stigma. There can be embarrassment, secrecy, denial, humiliation because people feel judged when they have an illness, particularly a mental health one. Considering how prevalent mental health problems are, it seems rather stupid that we still have stigma around them. Indicating to a friend that you do not judge them and want to help them is a great way of getting rid of stigma.
1. Gore FM, Bloem PJ, Patton GC, Ferguson J, Joseph V, Coffey C, Sawyer SM, & Mathers CD (2011). Global burden of disease in young people aged 10-24 years: a systematic analysis. Lancet, 377 (9783), 2093-102 PMID: 21652063.