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Health

Commentary: Prevent Mental Illness Now, Or Treat It Later

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Anxiety and depression are the most common and the most treatable types of mental illnesses. And since the start of the pandemic, self-screenings for anxiety are up 650% in the United States, and for depression, up 900%, with Wichita mirroring these numbers. The shifting sands of COVID-19 have created an environment where we feel like we have lost control of our own lives.

In many ways, this lack of control is similar to that felt by many children and teens even during “normal” times. They are told what classes to take and when to do their homework. They are told what to eat, what time to go to bed, and what they can and cannot wear. So it’s no wonder that roughly half of all mental illnesses begin to manifest by the age of 14. Eating disorders, abuse, self-harm, addictive behaviors, and suicide are all on the rise in both youth and adults.  And pandemic or not, that fact is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

The creation of appropriate coping skills is the best way to keep a mental health issue from turning into a mental illness down the road. And preventing the mental illness in the first place is always easier, always faster, always more efficient than treating it later.

Information on developing coping skills and how to determine if you or your loved one needs help is at MHANational.org. KMUW’s mental health series is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

Eric Litwiller is the director of development and communications at the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas.