In a country where mental illness is at the forefront of national debates about race and class, health care workers are grappling with a mental health epidemic that has killed nearly a quarter of all Americans between ages 18 and 64.
The numbers underscore a challenge facing public health officials across the country: The stigma that comes with mental illness makes it hard for many to seek help.
“People think that mental illness has a negative impact on your ability to be a good parent, or a good partner, or an independent person,” said Karen Reiss, director of the national mental health project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“It’s really hard for people to be able to understand that what they’re doing is really not what they think it is.”
The problem is compounded by a cultural and political climate that often fails to recognize the connection between mental health and race.
“We’re not seeing any major efforts to educate people about mental illness,” said Dr. Robert J. Anderson, a psychiatrist and former medical director of an Arizona mental health facility.
“There are all kinds of myths out there that people don’t understand, or that they think are not true.”
The stigma surrounding mental illness and mental illness as a racial problem is pervasive, according to the CDC, with more than half of all adults identifying as White, the second-highest percentage in the country behind African-Americans.
Yet it is especially pronounced in rural communities, where mental health care is often overlooked, said Dr