Stigma is not new in the mental health arena, but it remains one of the biggest hurdles to treatment and care. It usually involves discrimination against or negative attitudes toward a person seeking help for mental health. Unlike social stigmas around hard-to-conceal characteristics like culture, religion, race, or gender, a mental health stigma can force someone to coil back into their cocoon.
The effect of stigma on mental health can be catastrophic, and, unfortunately, the stigma surrounding seeking mental health is still quite rampant. In fact, studies have found that stigma is one of the significant risk factors that contribute to poor mental health outcomes. Not only does it delay treatment, but it also reduces the entire likelihood that someone with mental health-related issues will seek or get adequate and appropriate care.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have reduced the stigma around seeking mental health help. Mental health experts like Alexa James, the National Alliance on Mental Illness CEO, are echoing this sentiment.
How the Pandemic Has Changed the State of Mental Health in Chicago
When COVID-19 hit, employers and companies responded to their employees and paid attention to their need for mental health help. This is something experts like Alexa James had never seen before in Chicago. Sometimes, it is difficult for people to digest what they’re going through, especially when technical terms like “depressive disorders” are thrown around. Many years ago, when a certain hospital wished to conduct research on “heart disease and depression” on the west side of Chicago, no one signed up for the study.
It wasn’t until researchers changed their language to “heart disease and stress” that they got the attention they needed. To measure the level of mental illnesses in Chicago, investigators are now looking at the rate of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse – all of which have been on the rise. They’ve also noted a marked increase in domestic problems and relationship challenges with adults, both of which are directly related to mental health.
Is the Mental Health Crisis Dire in Chicago? Are More People Seeking Help for Mental Health?
Many indicators show that the mental health crisis has become a significant issue in Chicago. For example, cases of mental health-related suicides are on a steep rise. Thankfully, amid the pandemic, more and more Chicagoans have been seeking help for mental health.
For instance, more beds at major mental health centers are occupied. The number of mental health-related urgent care visits has also skyrocketed during the pandemic. Another signal of an increased number of mental health care seekers is the rise in calls made to help hotlines.
Is There Any Demographic Group Bearing the Most Brunt of Mental Health Crisis?
From data aggregated across a variety of departments and agencies, it’s clear that the mental health crisis has affected many demographic groups, from children to older adults. However, numbers suggest that mental health issues are taking the most toll on younger adults. According to an NIH report cited by Time Magazine, 17 percent of young people aged between 18 and 25 reported at least one significant mental health incident like a depressive episode during the first year of the pandemic. Meanwhile, only 7 percent of adult Americans suffered from one or more depressive episodes.
Aside from age, other demographic factors are also drawing the line when it comes to mental health issues. In Chicago, for example, there are disturbingly high rates of suicides among nurses, which isn’t surprising given that front-line workers and healthcare providers faced the majority of stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ways Parents Can Support their Children and Young Adults amid the Mental Health Crisis
With more people seeking help for mental health during the pandemic, there are higher rates of boarding and hospitalizations for individuals with mental illnesses. This is especially seen in kids with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Luckily for Chicagoans, the Chicagoland area has numerous in-patient mental health facilities where they can seek treatment for their children and loved ones. There are also multiple helplines that can be used as clearinghouses for resources for people struggling with mental health.
Private practices are also making it easier for people to seek help for mental health as well. Take, for example, Geode Health’s upcoming Lakeview location ,which will soon offer both in-person and telehealth visits online.
There are many measures you can take to combat the stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health. First of all, it’s crucial to remember that you are not alone; many other Chicagoans are struggling with mental health challenges, too. Finding the proper support from organizations like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) can also prove very helpful. You deserve the mental health treatment and care you need!