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What the '1-in-4' Statistic Really Means

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One in four.

One in four.

One in four.

One in four adults live with a mental health condition. In the U.S. alone, that comes out to tens of millions of people each year; furthermore, only about half of those people affected will receive treatment. These statistics alone are frightening and deeply concerning without including the most recent numbers around the rising suicide rate.

When I first started researching and educating myself on the topic of mental health — with appropriate resources, of course — the one-in-four statistic was one of the first pieces of numerical information presented to me, and of course remains an omnipresent number for all eyes to take in.

The further I continue on in my own mental health journey, the more palpable and real this statistic becomes. It is real. It is that widespread and yet so under-addressed and unaddressed for the plethora of reasons that it is. It is one in every four people anywhere you go. When you look even deeper and speak out more openly, you realize it’s possibly more.

It’s me.

It’s my cousin who recently took time off from work and is now back at it, but still keeps his stay at family gatherings short because of triggers there.

It’s my grandma who passed away when I was only a baby so I never knew her, but I do know her reality was as it was, and is part of why my reality is as it is.

It’s my former supervisor and now friend from the only full-time job I’ve ever held, who I recently saw again for the first time recently in almost a year because of both of our recent realities.

It’s my former coworker who is pulling through the work she does, who from my perspective unintentionally got the short end of the stick from me because too often, I was unwell on days that happened to be days I’d scheduled to work with her.

It’s my other former coworker who refused to bear that same work any longer and left her role, who each time I saw in most recent times, increasingly referenced her progressively exacerbated reality.

It’s my friend from high school who at long last opened up to me about his challenges after around 10 years of knowing each other, who also openly and proudly lives as a young, 21st century gay man.

It’s my friend on the other coast of this country who is now facing another transition phase of life after working consistently hard to achieve his most recent goal, whose friendship and presence in my life I simply cherish.

It’s my friend overseas who lives in a country where there is undeniably more stigma around mental health than in the U.S, and is now starting to speak more openly and publicly about her reality.

It’s my neighbor who I say hi to here and there, but never really had a full conversation with, who I recently ran into and cried to in the waiting room of my, or rather our, behavioral health clinic as we both went in and out of our respective appointments.

If you’re a teacher with a class of of 32 students, it’s eight of your brilliant students, a quarter of your entire class.

If you’re in a leadership position anywhere — a school, a small company, a nonprofit organization —  with a staff of 40 employees, it’s 10 of your of your talented employees.

If you’re a primary care doctor with a panel of 2,500 patients per calendar year, it’s 625 of your patients.

It’s one in four, and likely more.

Who are your one-in-fours?

During the month of May, Mental Health Month, I encourage each and every one of you out there to do something nice not only for yourself, but for one or more of your one-in-fours: make them a meaningful painting, write them a poem, go on a hike together or anything simple yet significant to remind them of their significance. After all, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference and mean the most.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment someone changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 24, 2016
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