Opinion: How to Have a Better Conversation About Mental Illness

Much good has come of the increased willingness to discuss mental disorders. There is greater acceptance than in the past that mental illness is real and common, and that when it arises, its causes are complex and cannot be explained away as weakness or lack of character. All of this is vital in reducing stigma, which in turn encourages people to step forward and seek help without shame.

But far from the cliché that depression is a crisis of the wealthy West, depression is a global problem, and developing nations are not immune.

In 2015, 78 percent of suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries.

Suffering is compounded when the groups that are most in need of treatment for mental illness are the very groups who are less likely to receive it. In wealthy countries, those with greater advantages are more likely to be receiving psychological, while increases in mental health spending may not be reaching those who need it most.

No one would begrudge economically advantaged people accessing treatment for high blood pressure, or asthma, or sporting injuries, and nor should they be considered to be acting inappropriately for accessing treatment for mental illness. But it does point to a terrible unfairness that will never be rectified by public awareness and stigma reduction alone.

When it comes to the public conversation about mental illness, we need to inflect that conversation with nuance. After all, speaking of mental illness in blanket terms is no more useful than speaking about “illness” in blanket terms. There is a world of difference between the common cold, cancer and diabetes.

Ultimately, raising awareness, that impotent entreaty of our time, is not enough. Greater funding is needed, and it needs to be targeted at the greatest suffering.

From The New York Times.

Read the full article here.

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