Apr 17, 2009

20-somethings and mental illness

I have multiple friends and family members in their early 20s who suffer from mental illness. I have watched them struggle to maintain their social lives, their family relationships, their finances, their jobs. I have watched them struggle with medication changes, paying for medications/treatment, suffering the consequences when they can no longer afford their medications/treatment. 20-somethings are often less likely to seek treatment for mental illness, less likely to be able to afford treatment, less likely to have support through treatment, and more likely to have their first experiences with mental illness than any other age group.

One in five young adults suffers from mental illness. For many, the onset of mental illness begins just as they are leaving their parents' homes, leaving school systems where they are under adult supervision for most of the day, and are entering either into the workforce or into college where they have far less supervision and where their problems are far less likely to be noticed by someone else who cares enough to help them. It comes as they are experiencing higher levels of stress than they are accustomed to (as a result of college workloads, new jobs, more serious relationships, having children, and increased financial responsibilities), which can serve as triggers for mental illness. Many mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, also tend to manifest themselves when a person is in their late teens or early 20s.

Despite the high numbers, relatively few young adults suffering from mental illness seek treatment—as low as 25%. This isn't particularly surprising when you consider that 20-somethings are less likely in general to seek treatment for any kind of ailment, to receive regular preventative care, or to have health insurance. There's even (yet another) term for young people who fall into this category: the young invincibles. It's even less surprising when you consider that many people in the general population are reluctant to seek treatment for mental illness, not only because of the cost and frustration that comes with treatment, but also because of the social stigma attached to mental illness.

All the same, when you consider that people in their 20s experience among the highest rates of suicide of any age group, it becomes clear that treating mental illness should be a priority for our age group.

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  1. Great post!! This is something I blog about frequently and more people should put out the word.

  2. Two things...
    First, as an almost psychologist, I have to thank you for posting this! It still amazes me the disconnect people have between their perceptions and the reality of mental illness. There is so much stigma for something so very common, and a lot more dialogue on the matter is needed.

    Second, and totally unrelated-- today is the first time visiting your blog, and tomorrow I'm leaving for a week in Portland for my first time. Crazyness!

  3. Enjoy Portland! I hope the gorgeous weather we've been having sticks for your trip! :)

  4. wow, i didn't know that about the suicide rate. i would think it's people in their teens. great article!