May is Mental Health Awareness Month
By | May 2nd, 2023
This is the month to pause and reflect on your mental health. Since 1949, Mental Health America and many others have observed May as Mental Health Month by spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should be concerned with.
Why Mental Health Awareness is Important
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five Americans lives with a mental health condition. This includes any behavioral, mental, or emotional disorder such as:
- Mood disorders such as bipolar disorder
- Personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia
- Eating disorders
- Substance use disorders
What is the Theme for Mental Health Awareness Month for 2023?
In order to raise mental health awareness, the 2023 Mental Health Month campaign focuses on how your surroundings impact your mental health. It’s time for you to look around and look within yourself.
Specific topics include:
- Stable and safe housing
- Healthy home environments
- Neighborhoods and towns
- The outdoors and nature
12 Warning Signs of Mental Illness
Major mental disorders such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia almost never appear “out of the blue.” Most of the time, friends, family, teachers, or the individual begin to sense that something isn’t quite right or recognize small changes in their behavior, thinking or feelings before an illness appears in its full-blown form.
Learning about early warning signs and taking action can help make sure treatment is gotten promptly. The severity of an illness and the interruptions in functioning and quality of life can be reduced by early medication. It might even be possible to delay or prevent a major mental disorder completely.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
Even though a person isn’t showing clear signs of a diagnosable mental illness yet, these early warning symptoms can be frightening and disturbing.
Appetite or Sleep Changes
Noticeable changes in sleeping or appetite or a decline in personal care
Sudden or dramatic changes in emotions or depressed feelings or greater irritability
Social withdrawal and lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
Decrease in Functioning
An abnormal decrease in functioning at work, school, or social activities, like quitting sports, failing school, or having problems handling familiar tasks
Unexplained difficulty concentrating, memory, or logical thought and speech
Raised sensitivity to sounds, sights, smells, or touch and avoiding over-stimulating situations
Loss of drive or desire to take part in any activity
An uncertain feeling of being disconnected from yourself
Exaggerated or unusual beliefs about personal ability to understand meanings or influence events; “magical” or illogical thinking usually seen in a child
Being fearful or suspicious of other people or having a strong nervous feeling
Uncharacteristic, odd, bizarre behavior
Changes in Work or School
A decline in performance, increased absenteeism, and problems in relationships with co-workers and peers.
The presence of one or two of these symptoms alone doesn’t predict a mental illness, but it might signal a need for evaluation. If someone is experiencing several at one time and the symptoms are causing serious issues in being able to work, study, or relate to others, they should reach out to a mental health professional. Individuals with suicidal thoughts or intentions, or thoughts of hurting other people, need attention immediately.
What You Can Do to Raise Mental Health Awareness
You can encourage the person to:
- Get evaluated by a mental health or other healthcare professional
- Educate yourself about mental illness, including signs and symptoms
- Receive supportive counseling about daily life and methods for stress management
- Be closely supervised for conditions that require more intensive care
- Be aware that stigma may create a significant roadblock to seeking help
Preventing Serious Illness
Each person’s unique situation must be evaluated carefully and treatment should be individualized. Comprehensive treatment to avoid early symptoms from becoming a serious illness can include:
- Continuing family and individual counseling
- Educational and vocational support
- Participation in a multi-family problem-solving group
- Medication, when appropriate
Whenever possible, family members and significant partners should be involved. Individuals and family members should learn about mental illness and what’s going on in the brain. This can help them understand the importance of the symptoms, how an illness develops, and what can be done to help.
Ways to Stay Mentally Healthy During Times of Crisis
One of the best things you can do in times of stress is to practice self-compassion and be nice to yourself. Some ways to do this include:
- Stay hopeful. Think about things you’re grateful for. You could start a gratitude journal or keep notes in a gratitude jar.
- Use your computer or phone to stay connected. But balance that with knowing when to disconnect.
- Get the news but monitor the time you spend watching the news.
- Exercise and eat healthily. A stressful time is not the time to go on a strict diet or exercise regimen. Find ways to make small changes like eating less of the “bad food” and going on walks.
- Look for the bright spots and the landmines. Keep doing whatever is going well, and let go of the things that are affecting you negatively.
- Be fun and creative while at home. You may listen to music, dance, journal, or do small home projects.
- Set a routine for your day to fight boredom.
- Do not drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs to deal with your feelings.
How Mental Stress Affects Physical Health
Have you ever had sweaty hands in a job interview, or felt your heart pounding while making a speech? If you answered “yes” then you know you can feel stress in your mind and in your body. This automatic response developed in our ancestors as a way to protect them from predators. When faced with danger, your body kicks into gear which floods your body with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones raise your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, increase your energy, and prepare you to handle the problem.
Nowadays, you aren’t likely to face the threat of being eaten by a predator, but you probably do face many challenges every day such as meeting deadlines, paying bills, and arranging childcare. Still, these can make your body react the same way. Your body’s natural alarm system–the fight or flight response–may be stuck in the on position as a result. And this can have a serious backlash on your health.
If stress starts to interfere with your ability to live your life normally for an extended period, it is even more dangerous. The longer it lasts, the worse it is for your body and mind. The long-term activation of the stress response system and corresponding overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disturb almost all of your body’s processes, putting you at risk for:
- Depression disorders
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Sleep problems
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Suppression of the immune system
5 Strategies for Reducing Stress
Identify the Cause of the Stress
Check your state of mind throughout the day. When you feel stressed, write down the cause, your mood, and your thoughts. When you figure out what’s bothering you, develop a plan to address it. List your commitments, evaluate your priorities, and eliminate any tasks that aren’t essential.
Build Strong Positive Relationships
Some of your relationships can actually be a source of stress. Hostile, negative relationships can cause immediate changes in stress-sensitive hormones. However, relationships can also be stress buffers. Contact family and close friends and let them know you’re having a difficult time. They may be able to give practical support, useful ideas, or just a different perspective.
If You’re Angry–Walk Away
Take time to count to 10 before you react. Then reconsider. Walking or another physical activity can help you blow off steam. In addition, exercise increases the production of endorphins, a natural mood booster.
Rest Your Mind
To make sure you get the recommended 7 or 8 hours of sleep, cut down on caffeine, remove distractions like a television or computer from your bedroom, and go to bed at the same time every night. Also, research indicates that activities like yoga and relaxation exercises help to boost immune functioning and reduce stress.
If you continue to be overwhelmed by things, talk to a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional. They can help you learn how to manage stress effectively and recognize situations or behaviors that add to your chronic stress. Then, you can develop a plan of action for changing them.
De-Stress With Evolve Wellness Telehealth
If you’re struggling with a mental disorder, or just noticed some warning signs, Evolve Wellness can provide you with professional help, no matter what your location is. We are able to treat many mental health conditions through individual and group therapy, medication, and standard outpatient treatment. You don’t have to live near a treatment center, you can schedule treatment when it’s convenient, and you have complete privacy. Contact us today and find out what telehealth can do for you.