Increasing Awareness Around Mental Illness, Domestic Violence

The month of October shines a spotlight on two critically important behavioral health issues. October 7 through 13 marks Mental Illness Awareness Week, a time to raise awareness and provide education about the realities of mental illness, support those affected, and fight harmful stigma. October is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness of the epidemic of domestic violence – which is experienced by people of all genders and sexualities – and lift up the voices of survivors.

Mental Illness Awareness

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about one in four adults—are believed to be diagnosable with a mental illness each year. Of these, about 45 percent meet the criteria for having two or more disorders. Anxiety disorders are most common, affecting 40 million adults in the U.S.

According to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health about two-thirds of people aged 12 or older reported that they drank alcohol in the past 12 months, with 6.4 percent meeting criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Also among Americans aged 12 or older, the use of illicit drugs has increased over the last decade from 8.3percent of the population using illicit drugs in the past month in 2002 to 10.2 percent in 2014. Of those, 7.1 million people met criteria for an illicit drug use disorder in the past year. The misuse of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana as the nation’s most common drug problem after alcohol and tobacco, leading to troubling increases in opioid overdoses in the past decade.

According to a 2016 Centers for Disease Control report suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. There were more than twice as many suicides in the United States as there were homicides.

For LGBTQ people, stigma and discrimination – part of what is known as “minority stress” – can take a terrible toll on mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQ individuals are almost three times more likely than their heterosexual peers to suffer from a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.

LGBTQ youth are particularly at risk for negative mental health outcomes. The CDC reports that LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth, and are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide.

Domestic Violence Awareness

Domestic violence (DV), also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), is a serious and widespread issue. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States every minute – more than 10 million people each year. Additionally, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner during their life.

IPV within LGBTQ relationships rarely get national attention, but is just as ubiquitous. For example, studies have shown that bisexual women are 1.8 times more likely to report experiencing IPV than heterosexual women, and roughly 30 percent of gay men have experienced IPV in their relationships. For transgender people, rates of IPV found in studies range from 31.1 percent to 50 percent.

Research has found that one of the main barriers to LGBTQ people leaving an abusive partner is not recognizing their partner’s behaviors as abusive.

“Domestic violence happens in all communities. If we only equate domestic violence with a straight cisgender man abusing a straight cisgender woman, then we miss the experiences of LGBTQ survivors,” said Xavier Quinn, Violence Recovery Program (VRP) Manager. “We miss the opportunity to address this issue in our communities. LGBTQ survivors need care specifically tailored to their needs in an LGBTQ-competent and affirming setting, and LGBTQ survivors need the support of friends and family in their community.”

Honoring Our Behavioral Health Team

Here at Fenway Health, we are grateful this month and all year long for the talented, creative and dedicated Behavioral Health staff who provide treatment, care and support to individuals living with mental illness or struggling with active addictions; survivors of domestic violence experiences; and individuals coping with other behavioral health issues.

The breadth and depth of skills and expertise of our Behavioral Health staff is truly impressive, and includes 42 masters level therapists, 8 psychiatrists, 11 medical case managers, 7 Violence Recovery Program advocates and counselors, 6 Addiction Recovery and Wellness Program acupuncturists, 5 administrative staff, and 6 interns.

We would like to sincerely thank the entire Fenway Health Behavioral Health staff for providing care, supporting recovery and healing, and uplifting our clients – and by extension, our entire community – each and every day.

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