Today nearly every person is affected by mental illness, whether it is our own struggle or the suffering of a close friend or family member.
An estimated 20 percent of all Americans of age 16 and over – 51 million people – are afflicted in any given year with some form of mental illness such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or acute anxiety. Yet less than 25 percent of those who suffer are ever properly diagnosed and still fewer receive needed treatment and support.
One of the major reasons? In a word, it’s stigma.
Among the cruelest aspects of mental illness is that we don’t know much about it. No one fully understands how the brain works and why, at time, it works differently in different people. Our society tends to not give the same acceptance to brain disorders as we do other organ disorders such as heart disease.
As a result, those that suffer tend to be isolated, even shunned, increasing their feelings of loneliness, despair and shame. Nearly two thirds of all people with a diagnosable mental disorder do not seek treatment. And without hope or support, they turn to drugs, alcohol and too often, violence. The result can be devastating. Consider one example of students in high school and college. Right now suicide is the second leading cause of death among students of age 16 – 24. Nearly 50 percent of high school and college students report feelings of acute depression and anxiety. Yet few receive diagnosis or treatment. The number one reason they cite for not seeking help is fear of being stigmatized.
We started the McKenzie Foundation of San Francisco in 2006 to help build awareness of issues related to mental health and reduce the associated stigma, especially among adolescents.
The McKenzie Foundation of San Francisco is founded on the simple belief that awareness brings understanding and empathy. And with understanding and knowledge we can better find treatment and cures.