Andrew Crow, board president, Alaska Behavioral Health (courtesy photo)

Andrew Crow, board president, Alaska Behavioral Health (courtesy photo)

Let’s work to remove the stigma of mental illness

Even in normal times, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience a mental illness.

  • Monday, October 5, 2020 10:34pm
  • Opinion

This year, we’ve heard a lot about the effect of the pandemic on mental health.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted surveys in June, finding that 40% of respondents reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition. The number rose to 75% for those ages 18-24. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported similar findings in a survey it conducted in May. In that survey, 65% of Alaskans reported being more sad or depressed than usual and 69% more angry or irritable than usual. Eighty two percent said changes in routines have been stressful.

We don’t know yet if that’s getting worse as the pandemic continues, or if people are adjusting and stabilizing, but the fact is that the pandemic has affected our mental health.

Even in normal times, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience a mental illness. One in 25 experience a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder serious enough to interfere with or limit one or more major life activities, such as major depression, debilitating anxiety, schizophrenia. Fifty percent of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.

The pandemic’s widespread effects offer us an opportunity to increase our understanding and to decrease the stigma related to discussing mental health. How many of us, or those close to us, have felt isolated, wary, unsure, hopeless, and/or threatened during this time?

This pandemic has created a world in which many can now relate to needing help to cope with uncertainty — and feel empathy for those who have been dealing with an overwhelming and confusing world for a long time. Perhaps we can imagine how just one more thing can pile on to a history of past trauma and push someone who had been a pretty functional adult to being unable to complete normal daily activities. Likely all of us now understand a little better how social isolation compounds over time.

Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 4-10) shines a spotlight on mental illness, its prevalence, the stigma still attached to it, and the challenges people who live with chronic mental illness face.

We know that 70% to 90% of people with mental health challenges report improved quality of life with support and treatment, yet the average time between the onset of symptoms and getting help is 11 years.

This Mental Illness Awareness Week, let’s all work to help reduce the stigma of mental illness, and help those facing challenges feel safe in seeking help without judgment. Become familiar with the resources in your community so you know how to connect people to help. Listen to what people with mental illness want you to know. And if you are struggling, know that you are not alone. Help is available.

A list of Mental Illness Awareness Week events is at The Alaska Careline offers support 24-7 at 1-877-266-4357. has resources for education and support groups. Alaska 2-1-1 can help you find appropriate services.

• By Andrew Crow, board president, Alaska Behavioral Health

More in Opinion

Opinion: Alaskans should choose Alaska’s future

Ballot Measure 2 helps open up the primaries so that we can vote for people — not parties.

This undated file photo shows the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)
FILE - This undated file photo shows the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska. The future of Alaska’s unique program of paying residents an annual check is in question, with oil prices low and an economy struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)
Alaska Voices: Meet the people behind Ballot Measure 1

I simply want you to understand the kind of Alaskans we are.

Pamela Parker (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: A tale of 4 rankings

If I can’t have my first choice, I’d at least like input on my second, or even third choice.

Members of the Huggins family. Left to right: Chad, Hallie, Becky, Charlie, Cody. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Ballot Measure 2 un-American

The American conception of republican government is one where the people rule.

Jason Grenn (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Knocking down barriers to competition of ideas

Ballot Measure 2 offers a practical set of reforms to give voters more choice, voice and power.

This undated file photo shows the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska.(AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)
Alaska Voices: Going from the owner to the donor state

Vote “yes” on Ballot Measure 1 and prevent us from becoming poor people living on a rich land.

Social distancing measures to address the coronavirus pandemic, such as marked spots for jurors, are photographed inside a courtroom at the Kenai Courthouse in this October 2020 photo. (Photo courtesy Judge Jennifer Wells)
Voices of the Peninsula: How the Kenai Court continues to serve

The court system has not shut its doors for a single day since the pandemic began.

(Black Press File photo)
Opinion: Supporting health degree programs is a smart investment

For Alaskans ready to start a career or return to work, this is a unique opportunity.

Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) listens to testimony in Juneau, Alaska in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of Peter Micciche)
Voices of the Peninsula: Ballot Measure 1 is a race to the bottom

Now is literally the worst time to pass an experimental new tax scheme.

Most Read