Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day – a global effort started in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health, operating in more than 150 countries.
The day is meant to raise awareness about mental health and the stigma that keeps many out of treatment. This year’s theme is “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.”
CGTN’s Karina Huber filed this report.
Mike Veny was six-years-old when he realized he was different. Despite having a loving family, he had difficulty managing his emotions.
“We know where we stand in social groups starting from a very young age, and I just knew that something was a little bit different with how I was feeling inside and connecting with others,” said Veny.
In fourth grade, he was expelled twice for hitting his teacher and classmates. That same year, he was admitted to a mental hospital for three weeks. At the age of 10, he attempted suicide.
“It was very scary. It was very lonely, and I felt like I was in prison because it’s like you’re locked up because something is wrong with you, you know,” said Veny.
But Veny was far from alone.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said roughly one in five American children aged three through 17 (about 15 million children) have a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. However, only 20 percent of them are diagnosed and getting treatment.
Medical experts say those left untreated can suffer a range of problems.
“We see an increase in school withdrawals, falling behind academically. There’s an impairment in social relationships. So there are a lot of implications for young people that go untreated,” said Flo Leighton, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at Union Square Practice in New York.
Some of the barriers to treatment include stigma and access. Finding a therapist can be difficult, and in the United States many health insurance companies place restraints on mental health benefits.
“If I need to go in-network through my insurance to find a provider and that person has a waiting list of a month or two months, that could be life or death for some people,” said Leighton.
Even so, Leighton and Veny say things are getting better. For one, more people are talking about mental health. Veny has written a book about his experience, and speaks to companies about what they can do to support employees.
He says in some ways, his mental illness has been a gift.
“We want an answer. Why is this happening? How can we fix it? But it’s a complex thing. You can’t just prescribe something for it and I look at it as a beautiful opportunity for self-discovery. Through my mental health challenges, I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve really learned so much through the confusion and the complicated emotions,” said Veny.
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