There were many choices of TED Talks to watch. I decided to watch the one titled, Toward a New Understanding of Mental Illness by Thomas Insel. This one really stuck out to me because I personally struggle with mental illness and it is a very important topic to me.
In the beginning, Thomas Insel starts with what he calls the “good news.” He compares how Leukemia, Heart Disease, AIDS, and Stroke cases have significantly decreased from between 1965-1995 and 2009-2012. The most important thing that has lead to the decreased in mortality with these cases is being able to detect it early and intervene early. Insel states, “Early detection, early intervention, that’s the story of these successes.”
On the not-so-good-news side, suicide cases have not changed in the same time span. Today, there are about 38,000 suicides per year in America. This is equal to about one person committing suicide every 15 minutes. Suicide is the third most common death of people between the ages of 15-25, twice as common as homicide, and more common than traffic deaths.
Insel talks about how there is a medical factor that affects the rate of suicide: mental illness. He displays a graph that shows that roughly 30% of all disability from medical causes can be attributed to mental disorders. Now people may argue that cancer or heart disease seems more serious than mental disorders, however, they are further down the list because of the amount of disability they cause.
There are 3 reasons that Insel gives that explain why mental illnesses are more debilitating than cancer or heart disease:
- Common: About 1 in 5 will suffer from a mental disorder.
- Disabling: About 1 in 20 people will become disabled from a mental disorder.
- Early Onset: About 50% will have a mental disorder by age 14, and 75% will by age 24.
No matter how you think about mental illnesses or suicide, whether it’s the brain, the neurons, or the synapses, we are just beginning to truly understand the “epidemic” that is suicide.