Have you heard about America’s largest epidemic?

Each decade or era is known for a certain detrimental outbreak within a country or community.  Back in Europe’s Middle Ages, the Bubonic Plague hit and destroyed over 1/3 of Europe’s population.  Early 1900s brought Typhoid Fever to New York, killing 10,000 people annually until a vaccine was discovered.  I’m sure many of you have heard of America’s obesity epidemic as well, effecting millions.  However, the real disease of America isn’t from germs or genetics – it is ignorance.

To prove my point, I looked up a few random facts about organizations or events that effect a large amount of Americans: wealth distribution, mental illness, unemployment/job rate, and higher education availability.  With these random facts, I approached people and asked them to guess the answer – a couple knew some of the answers, but very few knew all of them.

A big part of this is how media and people as a whole tend to filter the information they spread or take in.  Cancer patients? *sound of loud agreements and discussions* This is a disease we can – we must – fight.  Especially since, according to the National Cancer Institute, about 39% of people worldwide will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life.  Cancer is something even very young children are introduced to through family diagnosis or health class.  Mental illness patients?  *suddenly quiet enough to hear a pin drop* Those aren’t even real, right?  Despite 350,000,000 people across the world being diagnosed with some level of depression alone?    Or how 90% of the 804,000 people committing suicide each year do so because of mental illnesses (World Health Organization)?  So, please, tell me again how cancer is the biggest threat to society’s wellness.

jared-mental-illness

That turned into more of a rant than I had intended.  Back to ignorance.  First and foremost, once the stigma around having a mental illness *again, awkward pin-drop-silence* is dropped, it would be much easier to help those who are afflicted get better.  This can easily be achieved my simply having a mental health section in the required health classes.  If I remember correctly, my high school offered the following options: nutrition/fitness trends, substance abuse, sex ed, communicable diseases, and relationships/stress.  Now, where did I see depression?  Eating disorders?  Bipolar disorder?  Suicide?  Therapy?  Signs, symptoms, and triggers?  If there is a course for physical diseases, why is there not one for mental ones as well?  My school is not the only one to blame.  Schools across America lack mental illness education.  Maybe, juuuuuust maybe, the raising of awareness may be enough to help lift the fog over a struggling child, allowing him or her to have as fair a chance at life as everyone else.

Please, share this message.  Mental illnesses are NOT taboo; they are killers. I plan on dedicating my life to this cause, because I know first hand how much hurt it causes.  Be brave and join my battle.   I won’t let you fight this alone.

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