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Changing the direction of mental health

Apr 02 2015

More Americans are expected to die this year by suicide than in car accidents, yet mental health is still a challenging subject in our society.  Our nation is at a crossroads. We know that one in five citizens has a diagnosable mental health condition and that most of them are too embarrassed or ashamed to seek help.

Despite this sobering reality, we see little recognition in today’s culture of the value of caring for our mental well-being or the well-being of those we love. Most people would agree that physical health is critical to overall success and happiness. And we understand that we cannot always control internal processes or external factors that may compromise our physical health. So why are we much less able to accept that the same is true of our mental health?

Similarly, we spend considerable time, money, and effort doing what we can to care for our physical health, yet most of us spend very little time or effort on opportunities to improve and support our mental well-being. Meanwhile, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Depression infographic purpleWe do not blame those whose physical health is adversely affected by illness or injury. On the contrary, we are sympathetic and provide support and care for someone recovering from physical illness. But those who have the misfortune of suffering from mental illness and those who have experienced psychologically damaging events are often misunderstood and mistreated. They typically feel embarrassed or ashamed. They often fail to seek the help they need to heal and recover.

It’s time to change direction.

A new movement is taking shape that will change the story about mental health, mental illness, and wellness in America. This collective impact effort has already attracted over 50 partners including businesses, government agencies, nonprofit partners, and entire communities that together have pledged to reach over 30 million men, women, and families over the next five years with tools and programs designed to educate, empower, and inspire. We are proud that Aetna has joined the Campaign to Change Direction as a Founding Member.

How do we begin to change a cultural blind spot that is grounded in misinformation and fear? We recognize that we have all experienced emotional distress. We recognize that some of us are suffering significantly. And we create a  common language that conveys a shared experience—an experience that reflects a continuum we can all understand because on it, we see ourselves.

The Campaign to Change Direction will encourage everyone to pay attention to the basic signs of emotional suffering and will help shift how we think about and address mental well-being. Encouraging everyone to reach out when someone is exhibiting these signs will reduce suffering. And accepting the challenge to change direction will lead to healthier communities.

If you want to join the Campaign to Change Direction,  you can find out more here.

Also, be sure to check out these three animation videos from the Campaign to Change Direction detailing several of the signs of suffering.