Mission: Readiness member perspective on Mental Health Awareness Month
“We must address all sides of the health equation, including mental health”
Lieutenant General (Ret.) William “Burke” Garrett III served in the United States Army for 35 years, finishing his career as Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command. He is currently the executive advisor to a nationally renowned veterans health care program. General Garrett is not a mental health professional, and the perspective provided below reflects his personal observations and experiences.
As a former military leader and a member of Mission: Readiness, I strongly believe that promoting physical fitness and healthy behaviors in young people is critical to the success and national security of our country. I also believe that in order to ensure that our young people get a strong start in life and grow up to be productive citizens, we must address all sides of the health equation - including mental health.
May is recognized each year as Mental Health Awareness Month, which provides us with an opportunity to talk candidly in our communities about mental health.
May is recognized each year as Mental Health Awareness Month, which provides us with an opportunity to talk candidly in our communities about mental health. I believe that these discussions are critically important in helping reduce stigmas associated with mental illness and reminding individuals who may be struggling with their mental health that they are not alone.
In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 1 in 5 adults experience a mental illness. Among young people, 20 percent of those between the ages of 13 to 18 live with a mental health condition. However, NAMI also notes that 60 percent of adults with mental illness and 50 percent of young people ages 8 to 15 do not receive mental health treatment. This is particularly concerning because research shows that when left unaddressed and untreated, mental health issues can lead to addiction, homelessness, and incarceration.
In order to ensure that our young people grow up to be healthy and successful - in the military or in a different career field - we must do more to invest in mental health research, prevention, treatment, and education.
In order to ensure that our young people grow up to be healthy and successful - in the military or in a different career field - we must do more to invest in mental health research, prevention, treatment, and education. For example, investing in high-quality pre-K programs can help ensure that children who exhibit early signs of behavioral or mental health issues receive the care they need instead of being suspended or expelled for problematic behavior. It can also ensure that children are receiving developmentally appropriate instruction and are not being expected to perform at the level of an older child, which can cause misdiagnosis of anxiety disorders and attention deficit disorder.
Mental illness is something that crosses state and party lines, and I think we can all agree that we could do more as a society to address these important issues. During this Mental Health Awareness Month, I encourage each of you to have a discussion about what could be done in your community to improve mental health. This small step could have a big impact in improving the health of the next generation.
To access mental health resources, including resources for young people and veterans, please visit www.mentalhealth.gov.