One in Four People Suffer With a Mental Illness

January 9, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Have you ever watched television, absentmindedly, and are shaken awake by the statement: "One in four people will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives." Great. My first instinct? Well, I feel less alone.

The Mathematics of Mental Illness

math-picOne in four-Wow! Basic math can be applied to the pain of mental illness! And I am One in Four. The people in the home next me, perhaps they too, fall into this category.

According to this, if a family has four people in it one should be, at some point, mentally ill. Or, twenty-five people might not suffer at some point but a demographic in the city next to me may and this based on many things; access to healthcare, prevalence of poverty etc. All those lovely, sad, terms I learned in social work classes.


Yes, it certainly is. Another category to put mental illness in. But this one is better than most. It is better than comparing mental illness to Diabetes.

If one if four are affected we are in good, albeit a bit angry, company.

Defining 'One in Four'

First, I wish the mecca of psychiatry and all fields related would make this less of a mathematical statement, but let's give it a definition, and what better than the infamous World Health Organization to describe this:

"One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives..."

It's a pretty damn good idea to refrain from arguing with the World Health Organization. They do plenty of fantastic things in this world. But that's not what this post is about.

Does This Statement Reduce Mental Illness Stigma?

I am referring to this as a statement as opposed to a fact for three (and we could all list many more) reasons:

>Many people suffer their entire lives without seeking treatment.

>People do not have access to services, to education, that can diagnose and treat them.

>Fear of the stigma related to mental illness.

This might mean that the research surrounding 'one in four' might be incorrect. Perhaps, just perhaps, more people are afflicted and undiagnosed. When all is said and done (the calculators have been put away) it does make me, hopefully you as well, feel a bit less alone. Even if, and dare I argue, the statistics are a bit off---one in four is large part of humanity. But I would rather that number be much less.

Reality Check

sct-proof-2012-icon-mediumOne in Four is incorrect, even the aforementioned World Health Organization recognizes this:

"Treatments are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders..."

Let's try to put the academia aside and get to the heart of the above statement: If two thirds of people do not seek help, how can 'one in four' be accurate? Could it be more? Could it be less? It will never, ever, be possible to answer this question. It's comparable to figuring out our own idea of mortality...

Do Not Put Mental Health Patients in a Category

Argue this if you wish, I am receptive, but despite this research I still feel like I am being thrown into a pool of people. To use a terrible metaphor: thrown into a pool of people who may or may not wish to swim and find themselves. Find recovery.

It's no secret that mental illness carries great stigma--No kidding! People avoid the diagnosis because of this, but if the statistic is even close to accurate, perhaps we should stop hiding. Maybe, just maybe, mental health patients can find their voice and, in turn, recovery.

Think about the statement again: One in four people will, at some point in their lives, suffer with a mental illness. But don't dwell on it. Allow it to make you feel less alone, but focus on yourself, your recovery. Your journey to wellness.

I want to push the label aside but keep it in the back of my mind. I don't really like being one in four. I just want to be myself. I hope you do as well.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, January 9). One in Four People Suffer With a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

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