The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Mental Health
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. What does that mean? The term “mental health” includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It can also determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed since 1949 and brings attention to the widespread issue of mental illness that affects millions of people in America. It’s a way to help those with mental illness feel less alone by highlighting available support and resources.
- Mental illness is one of the most common health conditions in the U.S. The latest reports show 1 in 5 Americans has experienced some form of mental illness, and more than 50% of adults with mental illness go untreated.
- Suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S. In fact, it was the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 10–24.
- The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years.
- The global economy loses about $1 trillion USD every year in productivity due to depression and anxiety.
- Although the stigma surrounding mental health disorders has been declining over the past few decades, research shows that 56% of Americans would feel uncomfortable telling their friends or family if they were suffering from a mental illness.
- Many factors can lead to mental illness, including physical factors (genes, injury, brain chemistry), trauma or family history of mental health problems.
There are lots of resources available to learn more about mental health and wellness. You may even find some good self-care tips and practices. Check out sites like National Institute of Mental Health, MentalHealth.gov, or Mental Health America and their mental health month toolkit.
Treatment for mental health problems isn’t limited to prescribed or OTC medication. Therapy, yoga, meditation, and holistic treatments can all help.
You can make a difference too. Here are a few suggestions on how:
Take care of others
- Talk about it. Share your story with family and friends or online. Remove some of that stigma by just having a normal conversation about mental health.
- Listen to someone as they share their story. Sometimes we all just need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen.
- Write a note of encouragement to someone is struggling. Many volunteer organizations are looking for people to send letters to help support others.
- Paint some rocks with encouraging words and leave throughout your local area for others to find.
Take care of yourself
Mental illness is NOT a character flaw and does not make you lazy or weak. And self-care is not selfish. By taking care of your own needs first, you can do more to help others.
- Get physical. Take a walk, play with your pets, dance to your favorite song, stretch or do some yoga.
- Take small breaks throughout the day. Spend a few moments sitting in silence, browse funny memes/Tik Tok, or joke with a coworker. By the end of your workday, you won’t feel as drained.
- Get out in nature. Walk barefoot in the grass, take a hike in the woods, listen to the birds sing. Multiple studies have found that being outdoors improves mood and reduces stress.
- Take a hot bath, read a book, take a nap. Whatever makes you feel relaxed, do it.
And above all, be kind. Hold the door open for someone, smile at a stranger. You never know what someone else is going through and that small act of kindness can mean the world to them.