For many years the term “mental illness” was hardly uttered or understood. The very idea of mental illness was stigmatized and even scoffed at when placed against the physical and more tangible diseases and ailments. Over the past few decades, however, research on various mental illnesses has increased greatly, and the field has seen several breakthroughs. There is still much to learn about mental illness, of course, but at least now the majority of us can have an open discussion about its prevalence and relevance in our daily lives.
Perhaps the most common form of mental illness in the United States and around the globe is depression. In 2012, over 16 million adults in the U.S. claimed to have had at least one depressive episode. By the age of 18, about 11% of adolescents have a depressive disorder. If none of this sounds severe yet, consider the economic impact depression has. It’s estimated that the lack of productivity and health care resulting from depression costs the U.S. economy $80 billion.
But if depression is this common and this severe, it might come as a surprise that only half of those Americans suffering from depression seek counseling services and other medical attention. Part of the reason for this perhaps is the lingering stigma that remains from years ago when mental illness and depression weren’t taken seriously. Many people suffering from depression may become convinced by their well-meaning friends and family that they don’t need medical attention or therapy. They may think it’s a passing phase that can be remedied with a vacation or more money or other distractions. Many people are also good at hiding their depression so that their loved ones never even sense that anything is wrong. None of this changes the reality of depression for many people.
Mental Illness and Marriage
Mental illnesses such as depression don’t merely affect the individual suffering from the disease. One of the major strains on marriages is depression suffered by one of the parties, or both. While most cases of divorce involve an affair or something involving emotional distance, distrust or financial stress, the root of all these problems is often found in depression. Depression can lead one to seek comfort in external distractions, as well as reduce one’s drive to work and provide. For those dealing with depression it’s good to seek individual counseling, but it may also be necessary to seek marriage counseling or couples therapy, since one partner’s mental state inevitably affects the other partner.
While couples therapy like any therapy isn’t 100% effective at healing a relationship, the Chicago Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy has shown that half of the couples who took part in this type of couples therapy saw recovery after completion of the counseling, and that 70% of them were recovering within just three months. And nearly 93% of these patients claimed they were better equipped for working through their marital problems after working with a marriage or family therapist.
A Bright Future
While mental illness is still highly prevalent worldwide, the stigma surrounding it has decreased exponentially over the past few decades. This means that more people suffering from depression and other mental illnesses can feel more comfortable stepping forward and facing their illness, and more funding can be put into further understanding and treating these ailments. Whether or not divorce rates will decrease as a result of better mental health treatment remains to be seen. But the improvement of medical treatment and counseling services such as couples therapy means that we are on our way to better, healthier relationships and a more productive, positive society.