May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
There are millions of people in this world that are affected by mental illness.
1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-14 and the 3rd leading cause of death among those aged 15-24 in the U.S.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health is involved in our social, emotional and psychological well-being. It determines a lot of factors in our life including: how we handle stress, how we interact/relate to others, make everyday choices, feel, act and even think.
Mental health conditions vary in a wide range of mild to severe cases and it covers so many disorders. It primarily focuses on a illnesses that affect a persons thinking, mood and/or behavior.
There are many factors that can contribute to one’s mental health conditions, such as:
- Family history of mental health
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences and reactions
A Serious Mental Illness (SMI) is when the mental illness interferes with a person’s life and ability to function. It is something that goes against a person’s willpower, it’s not something that “passes”. There are a lot of misconceptions that having a SMI is a choice, weakness or character flaw. This is not the case.
Early Warning Signs & Symptoms:
There are some early warning signs that you can be in the look out for if you feel like you or a loved one could be living with mental health concerns:
- Having low or no energy
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Pulling away from people and usual activities
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, or scared
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Having persistent thoughts or memories you can’t get out of your head
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
Talking About Mental Health:
Talking about mental health can be difficult but it’s vital to the recovery process. If you feel like you may be experiencing a SMI or even a more milder case that can develop into something greater don’t be afraid to talk about it and be open with your loved ones. It’s important to build and strong support system and execute a recovery plan.
If you feel like someone you care about is experiencing mental health concerns, open up the conversation. Talking to friends and family about mental health can provide an opportunity for information, support and guidance. It can lead to greater understanding and compassion, earlier treatment and improved recognition of earlier signs.
You can offer support to your loved ones by:
- Finding out if the person is getting the care that they need or want. If not, connect them to help.
- Expressing your concern ans support
- Reassuring your friend or family member that you care about them.
- Offering to help your friend or family member with everyday tasks
- Including your friend and family member in your plans-continue to invite them without being overbearing, even if they resist your invitations
- Reminding your friend/family member that help is available and mental health problems can be treated
- Asking questions, listening to ideas, and being responsive when the topic of mental health comes up
Need help with knowing what to say? Try leading with these questions when trying to talk to a loved one who might be struggling:
- I’ve been worried about you. Can we talk about what you are experiencing? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?
- What else can I help you with?
- I am someone who cares and wants to listen. What do you want me to know about how you are feeling?
- Who or what has helped you deal with similar issues in the past?
- Sometimes talking to someone who has dealt with a similar experience helps. Do you know of others who have experienced these types of problems who you can talk with?
- It seems like you are going through a difficult time. How can I help you to find help?
- How can I help you find more information about mental health problems?
- I’m concerned about your safety. Have you thought about harming yourself or others?
Tips for Living Well with a MHC:
With early and consistent treatment, often times with medication and psychotherapy it’s possible to not only manage these conditions but you can also overcome challenges and lead a meaningful, productive life.
Make sure you are sticking to your treatment plan, even when you are feeling better you don’t need to stop treatment without your doctors guidance. Make sure you keep you primary care provider updated with your progression.
Develop healthy coping skills. It’s important in recovering to accept yourself where you are and know that it’s going to be okay. You have to not only take care of your mind but your body as well. Anyone with a mental health condition knows that it’s just as much physical as it is mental. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Spend time outside when it’s safe. Play sports you enjoy or other types of exercise-even if it’s walking or stretching.
To help mentally, you could explore your interests or hobbies, take a break from social media or the news if it stresses you out, write or draw your feelings. If you can, follow a regular schedule each day and build in time to take breaks. It’s important tot do these things in order to take care of your mind.
Don’t forget when you’re ready to talk about it, to reach out for support. Join a support group. talk to people who care about you and won’t judge you- and be open about their advice. Volunteer for a cause you care about.
This may seem like a lot but don’t feel pressured to do it all at one time. Healing isn’t linear and there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. Take it one step at a time and do what feels most right to you.
Dealing with mental health can be scary. Just understand that you are not alone in this. Those stats at the beginning of this prove that. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t make you any less of a human. The first step of recovery is acceptance and understanding. Educate yourself and those around you.
Remember this isn’t your whole life, just a part of your life. Don’t let the hard days win.
Need Help? To locate treatment facilities or providers near you, visit https://findtreatment.gov/ or call the national helpline at 800-622-4357
- National Helpline
- SAMHSA’s 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
- Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC)
- SMI Adviser | American Psychiatric Association (APA) and SAMHSA
- Technology Transfer Centers (TTC) Program
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Stress and Coping
- NIMH: Caring for Your Mental Health