Sun Editorial: Mind your mind

Study shows mental health disorders affect Americans of all ages

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

Do you go to the gym every day? Eat healthy foods? Have a job you love? It doesn’t matter. Don’t believe it? Ask Philadelphia Eagles offensive guard and South Jersey local Brandon Brooks, a mental health advocate since going public about his anxiety disorder in 2016. Anybody can experience mental illness.

In fact, statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) say 20 percent of U.S. adults experience mental illness and 17 percent of children 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder.

To put these percentages into context, think about a school population. One in every six children will experience a mental health disorder. Next time you’re in a grocery store or shopping mall, take notice of the adults. One in every five you pass will experience mental illness.

With more and more people affected by mental health disorders, awareness of the signs is important. According to NAMI, they include: feeling sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks; significant weight loss or gain; excessive use of drugs or alcohol; drastic changes in mood; a sudden, overwhelming fear for no reason; difficulty concentrating or staying still; and trying to harm or end one’s life or making plans to do so.

Knowing these signs and being able to address someone with a mental health problem is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough. With such a large percentage of the national population fighting mental illness, more can and should be done.

Fortunately, local schools are trending in the right direction. In recent years, school districts across the region have started working more mindfulness into curriculums. Mindful practices ranging from yoga and meditation to breathing exercises – coupled with open atmospheres and safe spaces – make classrooms inviting places to feel comfortable, giving students a way to decompress and relax.

For adults, the key is knowing it’s OK to talk about mental health. Defeating the stigma is important. A NAMI study says only 43 percent of those who experience a mental health disorder receive treatment.

So talk about problems, be open with loved ones and seek help if you need it.