May is mental health month

Posted: Friday, May 05, 2000

Mental health matters in our community. Mental illness is more prevalent than cancer, lung disease, and heart disease combined - leading the U.S. Surgeon General to declare mental illness one of our nation's leading public health issues.

Mental health matters to overall health and is key to maintain good physical health. Research shows that depression is common in individuals who suffer from heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Although physical illnesses are generally treated, too often the mental illnesses are not.

Great disparity exists between mental health and physical health. Individuals may not prioritize their own mental health needs. Many health insurance companies do not offer comparable coverage and health care providers often do not recognize the symptoms of mental health problems.

Mental health also matters to our business community. Absenteeism, employee turnover and lost productivity are just a few of the economic costs associated with untreated mental illness and mental health problems in the workplace. Stress and depression rank as the second and third largest issues facing employees.

Despite the prevalence of mental illness and the many successful treatment interventions that exist today, nearly half of those with mental illnesses do not seek treatment. Senseless barriers such as stigma, misunderstanding and discrimination can be torn down by recognizing that mental illnesses are real, common, and treatable. May is Mental Health Month, a time to acknowledge the importance of mental health.

Kathy CraftFairbanks

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