Whether you're suffering from depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or an eating disorder, rest assured, you're not alone. In fact, new research shows it's more common to struggle with a mental illness than it is to never experience one. In a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, researchers followed a generation of New Zealanders from birth to middle age. After running diagnostics every several years in order to look for signs of mental illness, the results showed over 80 percent of participants had struggled at some point or another with mental health issues throughout the study.
Meanwhile, a mere 17 percent of people remained mentally well throughout the course of this long-term study.
Translation: Mental illness is more common than mental health.
Basically, experiencing some sort of mental illness has become the norm.
When I first opened up about my eating disorder to a group of friends, I found that starting the conversation led them to admit they, too, had been struggling with a mental illness of some kind. The more I discussed what I was going through, the more I realized I wasn't alone.
While it's undoubtedly difficult at times to deal with any form of a mental illness, there is certainly comfort in knowing we're not alone in our circumstances.
The issue, then, is not that someone has a mental illness, but that stigma continues to persist anyway.
The stigma around mental illness is not only unfair -- it's unyielding.
In 2014, RAND Corporation issued a California Well-Being Survey that studied how the stigma surrounding mental illness affects those suffering. The results showed that more than two-thirds of those surveyed chose to hide their mental health conditions from family, friends, and co-workers to avoid discrimination.
Additionally, one in five admitted to delaying treatment out of fear of someone finding out about their condition.
And this stigma likely won't go away until we can talk about mental health the same way we discuss physical health.
President of Mental Health America Paul Gionfriddo told Business Insider,
At a time when we have recognized the importance of early intervention for cancer or for diabetes or heart disease, why would we say, 'OK, for mental illness we aren't going to screen or do early intervention?' This should be as common for adults as blood pressure screening. Putting our head in the sand and waiting for a catastrophe is not a health care plan.
As diagnosable mental illness becomes more common, treatment for those mental illnesses need to follow suit.
At the very least, this new research brings us one step closer to breaking the stigma around mental illness.
Though we clearly have a long way to go, mental illness has now been shown to be a common diagnosis, so it is even more crucial that we continue to normalize the conversation surrounding it.
The truth is, big or small, we've all got something going on in our heads.
There's no shame in your suffering, and you should feel comfortable standing by and talking about your mental health.
Don't let the stigma stop you -- speak up, and speak often.
Clearly, we're all in this together.