Mental illness is a reality for millions of Americans of all ages, races and cultural backgrounds. Like physical illness, mental illness is a medical condition, but it changes how a person thinks and feels.
“It doesn’t matter what you look like or where you are from, mental illness can affect anyone,” said Arpan Waghray, M.D., medical director of behavioral health at Swedish. In fact, 50 percent of people experience mental health challenges at some point in life — ranging from a brief bout of the blues, to depression or anxiety.
As common as mental illness is, it can be easily swept under the rug due to many persistent myths that make it hard to reach out for help. We’ve broken down these mental health myths on our sister publication, Providence’s To Your Health blog. Here are five common myths we covered:
- Mental illness only affects certain kinds of people
- You can just “snap out of it”
- Mental illness often leads to violent behavior
- Children can’t have mental illness – it’s just a phase
- People with mental illness can’t handle the everyday stress of work or school
“Research shows that negative perceptions can hold people back from seeking treatment and sometimes even prevent them from revealing issues to their doctors,” said Dr. Waghray. “These findings stress the importance of educating the public on how to support people who have a mental illness, and also the need to remove barriers to treatment.”
Our commitment to mental health: Closing the stigma gap
Many programs across Swedish are closing the stigma gap to ensure people with mental illness are supported in getting help. From embedding mental health experts in primary care clinics for better access, to same-day services, to sponsoring community awareness walks and creating school-based youth counseling programs, we are reaching out to help people in need.
Just this year, Swedish opened a new, 22-bed behavioral health unit at our Ballard hospital. We also launched a new Center for Perinatal Bonding and Support — the first intensive outpatient mental health treatment program on the West Coast for pregnant women and mothers of young children who are experiencing depression, anxiety or other emotional distress.
With the launch of the Providence St. Joseph Health Institute for Mental Health and Wellness, the entire organization will continue working to eliminate stigmas around mental health challenges and improve access to care in our communities. Our parent organization recently gave $1.43 million to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Council for Behavioral Health in honor of the 143,000 caregivers, physicians, volunteers and board members who deliver care every day.
How to get help
With screenings, treatment and support systems, many people with mental illness recover and live well. If you or someone you love needs mental health help, an important first step is talking to your primary care provider. To learn more about Swedish’s commitment to helping people cope with mental health issues, visit the Swedish Behavioral Health and Psychiatry site.