Struggling With Mental Health? You’re Not Alone!
Many people around the world struggle with their mental health and although some individuals struggle more than others, resulting in a mental health disorder (1), it all ties into our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.(2) Our mental health affects the way we think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others.
Why Invest in Your Mental Health?
Investing in your mental health does not just help your mental state, but it may also benefit your overall well-being. As an example, depression can increase the risk of physical health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.(2) Not only that, but there are many other benefits of taking care of our mental health such as (3)
Enhanced inner peace
According to Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LMHC, “Our mental health is something that impacts our eating and sleeping habits … oftentimes we will feel the impact of [mental health] in other areas of our health as well.”(3)
It is also important to note that your mental health can and will change over time and is dependent on many factors. Examples of ways your mental health can change over time include working longer hours than usual, caring for a relative, or experiencing economic hardship.(2)
If we neglect our mental health it can lead to further complications, including mental illness, which in return can negatively impact our day-to-day lives. Mental illness can make you feel miserable, effecting your life at school, work, or your relationships.
Who is at Risk?
As we begin to understand what mental health and mental illnesses are, we need to understand the symptoms that can be present. A few examples of mental illness symptoms are:(1)
Excessive fear or worry
Extreme mood changes
Detachment from reality
Alcohol or drug abuse
Suicidal thoughts or actions
It is also common that symptoms may appear as physical problems including stomach pain, headaches, back pain, or other unexplained aches and pains.(1)
These mental illness symptoms can develop at any time due to a variety of genetic and environmental factors like inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth (toxins, alcohol, or drugs while in the womb), and brain chemistry. Other risk factors include the following (1, 2, 3)
A history of mental illness in blood relatives
Stressful life situations
A chronic condition
Traumatic brain injury
Excessive use of alcohol or recreational drugs
Childhood abuse or neglect
Few healthy relationships
Previous mental illness
Sometimes a person may not develop a mental health condition even if they had previously been exposed to these risk factors, while some people with no risk factors still develop a mental health condition.(4)
How Common are Mental Health Issues?
Mental illness is among the most common health concerns in the United States affecting more than 1 in 5 adults and over 1 in 5 youth (ages 13-18). Serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression affects about 1 in 25 adults.(2)
There are more than 200 types of mental illnesses (2), however, according to Anwar, “Some of the most common mental health conditions include depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychotic disorders, and personality disorders.” A few other common mental health conditions include panic disorder, OCD, and eating disorders. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting more than 40 million adults. Out of these 40 million, less than 37% actually seek treatment for their symptoms.(3) It is important for those struggling with their mental health or mental illness to get the help they need.
How Can I Get Help?
Seeking help for your mental health early on can increase the chances of successful treatment, if necessary. Getting help for a mental illness or mental health is important for your overall health, but it can be difficult for some to reach out. If you are unsure if you should reach out for help, just know there are resources available all around you.
The first step to helping your mental health is through self-care. Everyone’s self-care routine looks different, it is all about finding what you need and what brings you joy. Try these tips to get you started on your self-care journey:(5)
Regular exercise. Find time in your day for a short walk to help boost your mood and improve your health. Just 30 minutes of physical activity a day is sufficient.
Eat healthily and stay hydrated. Maintaining a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water can help your energy levels and your focus.
Prioritize sleep. To make sure you’re getting enough sleep, try sticking to a schedule and reduce your blue light exposure before bedtime.
Engage in relaxing activities. Relaxation or wellness programs and apps can help relax your mood. These could include meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises.
Set goals and priorities. Prioritize things that need to get done now and hold off on things that can wait. Learning to say “no” can help you from taking on too much. At the end of the day, reflect on what you have accomplished rather than what you did not get done.
Practice gratitude. Creating a list of things you are grateful for can help focus your mind on the positives.
Stay connected. Talk with friends and family who can provide emotional support.
2. Professional Help
If your self-care routine is not enough and you are experiencing long periods of distress such as difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, difficulty concentrating, or loss of interest in your typical enjoyable things, seeking professional help is your next step. Talk to your health care provider about the symptoms you have been experiencing and they can refer you to a mental health professional if needed. If a mental illness goes untreated, it can get worse over time and lead to more serious problems.
3. Emergency Services
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or having suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately.(1, 5)
Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
Contact a minister or someone in your faith community.
Call your mental health specialist or primary care provider.
Contact a suicide hotline by calling or texting 988. Services are free, confidential, and available 24/7.
Call 911 or your local emergency number.
Unfortunately, mental health is often stigmatized in our society. However, the more people understand the importance of seeking help no matter how severe your situation is, the more we can work on de-stigmatizing mental health awareness. Everyone has their own struggles, but they should never have to go through it alone.