Although the stigma surrounding mental illness is slowly being broken down, the misconception that a disorder like depression or anxiety means there's something "wrong" with you remains pervasive. But a new study shows that the vast majority of people will develop a mental illness at some point in their lives.
Research published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology followed a generation of people in one New Zealand town from birth to middle age. The authors checked in with the participants every several years to look for signs of a diagnosable mental illness, and the results illustrate the prevalence of these disorders.
Over 80% of participants developed a mental illness at some point during the study, while just 17% remained completely mentally well. As researcher Aaron Reuben told the Scientific American, people who never have a mental health condition are the ones who stand out.
"Put another way, our study shows that you are more likely to experience a bout of mental illness than you are to develop diabetes, heart disease or any kind of cancer whatsoever – combined," Reuben wrote.
This new research is so important because it provides a powerful reminder that no one suffering from a mental illness should be ashamed to seek the treatment they need and deserve. This is especially true because previous studies have shown that treatment for mental health issues is effective. For example, over 80% of PTSD sufferers recover with the right treatment, but many people with the condition don't seek help at all.
And although some people deal with anxiety and depression throughout their lives, the symptoms can be alleviated through therapy, medication, self-care and the support of family and friends.