National Mental Health Month
May is National Mental Health Month. For 2018, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is using the campaign “CureStigma” to promote and educate others about the negative social effects that come with having a mental health disorder. Their goal is to shatter the myths surrounding mental illness so more people will reach out for help without fear of how others will treat them. They are working to form a more empathetic culture which urges people in need to get support. If we can change the conversation about mental health in our country, we can save lives. Here is what you need to know to help stop the stigma.
Mental Health Facts
Despite the negative associations that surround mental health disorders, they are surprisingly common. As many as 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness this year alone. That means one of your family members, friends, or co-workers will deal with this issue, and you may not even know about it. Mental illness affects all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Just because you cannot see the illness, like you would with someone who uses a wheelchair, it does not mean it is not there.
Symptoms of a Mental Health Disorder
Mental health disorders come in many forms. Anxiety and depression are the most common diagnoses, but bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and PTSD (among many others) fall into this group too. While each individual disorder has its own unique symptoms and a diagnosis can only be made after thorough health screening services, there are a few general warning signs that someone needs help:
- Excessive worry or fear
- Intense feelings of sadness or anger
- Unexpected mood changes
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical pains with no cause
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
This list does not include all the potential signs of a mental health concern. Just because you know someone with a mental health disorder, it does not mean their experience or their symptoms will look the same for you or anyone else. For a full list of mental illness warning signs, visit:
Although most health screening companies can easily find heart health and cancer red flags, pinpointing mental illness is much harder. This is because everyone experiences mental illness in a different way. If someone is struggling with symptoms, it is important that they reach out. There is no blood test that will tell others for them (although some tests like TSH testing and vitamin D testing can reveal an underlying health issue that is causing similar symptoms).
The process of getting help is easy, but it might take time. Concerns about mental health should always be brought to a primary care specialist, who can make a referral to a mental health professional. Treatment options will vary depending on the diagnosis made, but medication and therapy are popular and successful options. Seeking help for a mental health concern is exactly the same as getting treatment for any other physical issue.
How to Fight the Stigma
Many people who should get help for mental illness do not because of fear. They might be afraid of how others will treat them or how their life will change. They may even be concerned about the effects of treatment options like medications and therapy. Part of this fear comes from stigma. There are beliefs out there that people affected by mental illness are just making it up, weak, or did something to cause it.
The cure for stigma is compassion and education. Love, support, and understanding help someone dealing with mental illness take care of themself. Luckily, everyone is capable of offering those things. Health and wellness programs are also great resources for learning more about mental health disorders. Spreading the facts lowers the chances of misinformation.
This month, do your part to learn more about mental health and how to spot the signs of a problem in yourself or someone you know. Be a part of changing the conversation about mental illness in America and you might just save a life of someone you love.