Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month
What Exactly is Mental Health Awareness?
Each year, 1 in 5 American adults live with mental illness and 1 in 25 have severe mental illness. Furthermore, 21.4 percent of teens and 13 percent of children experience mental illness.
With numbers like these, the chances are that everyone knows somebody who needs psychological treatment. Despite the prevalence of mental illness, several dangerous myths persist in pop culture. These stigmas keep people from properly identifying their symptoms and seeking treatment that can improve their lives.
Mental health awareness aims to:
- Bust myths regarding mental health
- Spread truth about symptoms
- Connect people with the help they need and deserve
While professionals try to meet these goals throughout the year, mental health awareness gets a significant bump in society each May. Since 1949, Mental Health America (MHA) has designated this month as Mental Health Awareness Month.
Since then, MHA, other nonprofits, and mental health care facilities have observed the month as a time to place special emphasis on awareness. Advocates attend meetings, share stories on social media, and watch screenings of documentaries to help spread awareness.
Mental health awareness is vital in helping people feel connected with others with similar disorders, healing, letting go of shame, and finding the resources they need. It’s also important to society as a whole because the lack of treatment hurts us all in these ways and more:
- The country loses $193.2 billion in lost wages annually due to mental illness
- 18 to 22 veterans die due to suicide each and every day
- Untreated mental disorders remain the third leading cause of hospitalization for people between the ages of 18 and 44
- 37% of learners between 14 and 21 years of age drop out of high school or college
Everyone can help by understanding who can develop mental illnesses, when someone may need treatment, and where to go for help.
Who’s Affected By Mental Health Disorders?
While some populations are at a higher risk for developing specific mental disorders, absolutely anyone can develop a psychological illness. Mental illness does not discriminate based on age, religious beliefs, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, job title, income level, or lifestyle.
As such, there’s no reason to feel shame if you live with mental illness. Your diagnosis and symptoms do not indicate your moral character or worth.
Think of it the same way you would consider a physical ailment. If you develop a physical illness like the flu, cancer, or lupus, you should know that there is no shame in your diagnosis. Instead, it’s a sign that your body needs help in some way. Similarly, mental illness symptoms indicate that your mind could benefit from professional treatment.
Also, like physical disorders, some people are at higher risk of developing mental illnesses. You may have additional risk factors if you:
- Have witnessed or been the victim of a crime or abuse
- Served in combat
- Have one or more biological family members live with mental illness
- Do not have a home
- Have not processed trauma from your past
- Experience unusual stress, such as during a divorce or the death of a loved one
- Are incarcerated
All people can develop mental illnesses and all of those who do deserve care.
When to Get Help
The first step in healing from a mental illness is recognizing the symptoms and need for treatment. Some people can see the symptoms in themselves while others need loved ones to recognize the problems. Common signs of mental illness include:
- Changes in overall demeanor
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Anxious thoughts
- Extreme, unintentional changes in weight
- Obsessive thoughts
- Frequent crying spells
- Feeling unable to participate in things that the patient once enjoyed
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you or a loved one has thoughts of suicide, reach out for help immediately. You can go to your nearest emergency room, text HOME to the National Crisis Line at 741741, or call the hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Sometimes a person with mental illness does not exhibit the typical symptoms listed above, but they still need help. Furthermore, they may experience some of these things and just believe they are having a bad week.
One good rule of thumb is that if your symptoms are frequent and intense enough to keep you from completing daily tasks and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships, you should seek treatment. When in doubt, reach out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what treatments can help.
If you believe you could benefit from mental health treatments, contact FLBH today.