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The Risks of Ignoring Mental Illness or Not Taking It Seriously

consequences of ignoring mental health

It is estimated that, among the 57.8 million people in the U.S. experiencing a mental illness, less than half receive treatment or therapy. Oftentimes, those struggling with their mental health are afraid to acknowledge their problem and ask for help. This is because mental illness still carries a stigma – Many people are scared of being judged or treated differently and, as a result, do not get the help they need.

But stigma is just one barrier to treatment. Sometimes, those facing mental illness are not fully aware or accepting of their symptoms. For example, children and teenagers may not know enough about mental illness to recognize if and when they have a problem. However, roughly half of mental illnesses begin to show symptoms by the age of 14. Mental health disorders are common in young people, yet they often go undiagnosed. Parents or teens might notice off-base emotions or behaviors, but these symptoms often get shrugged off as just a phase of growing up.

Ignoring mental illness, or not taking a mental illness seriously, can pose risks to the person struggling. Left untreated, these disorders can gradually disrupt a person’s life and functioning. In order to ensure people get the help they need, it’s important to spread awareness and get educated about mental health conditions.

Below we discuss why so many people ignore mental illness, both out of fear and passivity.

The Mental Health Stigma Causes Avoidance

Stigma is an “unfair mark of shame” that is often placed upon people with mental health disorders, explains McClean Hospital. Because of stigma, people with a mental illness are viewed negatively. Sometimes, affected people even view themselves in a negative light due to the stigma of their disorder. They may be ashamed of their condition, or feel very alone and misunderstood. They may be afraid to tell others they are struggling, out of fear of what others might think.

The stigma around mental illness is multifaceted. On one hand, it has created the misconception that mental illness is a sign of weakness, or that it’s not a real disorder and therefore does not need to be taken seriously. Some believe that mental illness is something you can just “snap out of” over time.

These misconceptions could not be farther from the truth. Mental illness is a chronic condition of the brain, and must be treated like other chronic illnesses: with attention, ongoing care, and support.

However, because of the stigma, many people are scared to get the help they deserve. They are scared of what others might think of them. They are afraid of being blacklisted by family and friends. They are afraid they will be viewed or treated differently after talking about their struggles. As such, many stay quiet. Many do not ask for help. Many struggle in silence. And this brings about a whole other issue…

Lack of Education and Awareness Causes Ignorance

Mental health disorders are often thought of as silent disorders, because they are not always easy to see and are not often talked about. While you can quickly determine when someone has a bad cold, you cannot always see when a person is struggling with mental health symptoms.

And when you can’t see something, it’s easy to ignore it. We don’t ignore the common cold because the symptoms are persistently-present and in our face – coughing, runny nose, fatigue. But for something that’s not obvious to the eye, that’s not as talked about or known about, it often follows the “out of sight, out of mind” conviction. Therefore, mental illness often gets ignored, or is not taken seriously enough, and it does not get treated right away.

This is not always anyone’s fault. Parents might blame themselves for missing the symptoms of a mental health disorder in their child, but the truth is, even outright symptoms can be hard to pinpoint and understand at young ages. The symptoms associated with mental illness often mirror the emotional fluctuations experienced during the teenage years.

The best way to stop yourself from ignoring your loved one’s mental illness is to get educated now. Learn about the various signs and symptoms of mental illness, for example, and watch for those signs in your child. A child or teen that starts to withdraw from once-loved activities, for example, could be facing a mental health issue that requires professional help.

10 Risks of Ignoring a Mental Illness

Ignoring a mental illness can have serious and wide-ranging consequences. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Untreated mental health conditions can result in unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, and suicide, and poor quality of life.” It can also lead to issues with sleep, cognitive function, energy and motivation, mood, and even relationships.

But let’s get more specific. Ignoring mental illness can cause:

  1. Worsening Symptoms: Without treatment, mental health conditions often deteriorate. Symptoms can become more severe and more difficult to manage over time.
  2. Negative Impact on Physical Health: Mental health and physical health are closely linked. Untreated mental illness can lead to poor physical health outcomes, such as chronic pain, heart disease, and weakened immune function. It can also increase the risk of illness.
  3. Decreased Quality of Life: Mental illnesses can significantly impair one’s ability to function in daily life, affecting relationships, work performance, and overall satisfaction with life.
  4. Substance Abuse: Many individuals with untreated mental health conditions turn to alcohol or drugs as a form of self-medication, leading to substance abuse disorders and additional health complications.
  5. Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors: Mental illnesses, particularly depression and anxiety disorders, are major risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Ignoring these conditions can increase the risk of suicide.
  6. Social Isolation: Mental health issues can lead to withdrawal from social activities and relationships, causing loneliness and further exacerbating the condition.
  7. Financial Problems: Untreated mental illness can lead to job loss or decreased productivity, resulting in financial instability and economic hardship.
  8. Strain on Relationships: Mental illness can cause significant stress and strain on personal relationships, leading to conflicts, misunderstandings, and even the breakdown of relationships.
  9. Legal Issues: Some untreated mental health conditions can lead to behaviors that result in legal problems, such as issues related to substance abuse, aggression, or neglect of responsibilities.
  10. Chronicity and Co-occurrence: Untreated mental illness can become chronic, making it harder to treat over time. It can also lead to the development of additional mental health disorders, complicating treatment and recovery.

These are just some of the many consequences that can stem from ignoring mental illness or not taking a condition seriously. However, untreated mental illness can disrupt many other areas of life and aggravate a person’s physical, emotional, social, and mental wellness. With that said, early recognition and intervention are elemental in treating mental health conditions. Seeking professional help and support can significantly improve outcomes and lead a person towards a successful recovery.

After all, mental illness is very treatable and manageable. While it’s sometimes easy to ignore these silent illnesses – depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (to name a few) – mental illness can trigger many troubles in a person’s life when left unaddressed. If you or a loved one is struggling with the symptoms of a mental health condition, do not put it on the backburner. Get help now by contacting a professional. It’s never too early to seek therapy or speak to someone about your mental health concerns. 

If you do not know where to turn, you can always contact Turnbridge for support. Turnbridge is a recognized mental health treatment provider for young adults and adolescents in need. We are here to offer guidance, support, referrals, or information about our treatment programs. Learn more by calling 877-581-1793 today.