May is Mental Health Month! And in 2020, we are facing increased stressors because of COVID-19. Altered schedules, financial pressures, separation from friends and family, and information overload, to name a few. These factors can lead to feelings of fear, sadness, frustration, anger, and other strong emotions. So, it is more important than ever to share some mental health data and resources with our community. Together let us end mental health stigma!
Please note: This blog and its contents are intended to be solely informational and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or care. As always, please seek assistance from your physician or other qualified professionals about health questions or concerns.
General Mental Health Stats
Millions of people in the United States are affected by mental illness. Helping raise awareness of mental health and mental illness increases understanding and reduces stigma. Here are some facts about mental illness in the U.S. from the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI):
- 1 in 5 adults experienced mental illness in 2018 – that’s 46.7 million people!
- 1 in 6 people ages 6-17 experienced mental illness in 2018 – that is 7.7 million kids and teens!
- Only 43% of adults who have a mental illness received treatment in 2018.
- The average delay between mental health symptoms and treatment is a shocking 11 years!
- People with a mental health diagnosis are at increased risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
- The overall suicide rate has increased in this country by 31% since 2001.
What is mental illness?
So, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is mental illness? Here is a definition from the American Psychiatric Association, “Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior, or a combination of these. Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work, or family activities.”
The most common mental health condition experienced by people in the United States is an anxiety disorder. The next most common are major depressive episodes and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Mental illness is a medical condition like arthritis or asthma. There is no reason to be ashamed of having a mental health condition! Unfortunately, many people do not seek treatment when they are having issues with their mental health.
When to Consult a Professional
Of course, it is normal for moods and emotions to change and fluctuate. Because of these mood changes, it may not always be easy to know when to seek help.
Mental health conditions vary, just like there signs and symptoms. The Mayo Clinic suggests that you may want to seek professional assistance if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Noticeable changes in personality, eating or sleeping patterns
- Inability to cope with problems or daily activities
- Feeling disconnected or withdrawn from normal activities
- Unusual thinking, excessive anxiety, or extreme mood swings
- Extended sadness, depression, or apathy
- Thoughts or statements about suicide or harming others
- Substance misuse (drugs, alcohol, etc.)
- Excessive anger, hostility, or violent behavior
Diagnosis and Treatment
Many people put off seeking diagnosis and treatment when they might need it because of shame and societal stigma. But it is so important to care for your mental health as you would your physical health!
A mental health diagnosis can start with your physician. Since many mental illnesses have physical symptoms, diagnosis may include a physical exam or blood work to rule out underlying medical conditions. In addition to your general physician, you can also consult a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional. You can also ask your insurance provider for a mental health referral or contact your county’s behavioral services department.
Treatment for mental health conditions varies from person to person. Typically, a person works alongside their health professionals to determine a plan. Talk therapy, counseling, mind/body treatments, and medication are just some examples of treatment options.
How to Care for Yourself
Caring for yourself is essential even if you do not have a mental illness. You have probably seen the term self-care floating around social media. Self-care may sound like a trend or something abstract, but it is simply checking in with yourself and making sure that you’re okay. It’s about taking the time you need to care for yourself and maintain balance.
Self-care is very individualized, but most experts agree that the following are very effective:
- Getting the right amount of sleep and rest
- Eating nutritious foods
- Participating in regular physical activity
- Connecting with others
- Having and sticking to a routine
- Meditation, breathing exercises, prayer
- Limiting screen-time and taking breaks from excessive news consumption
- Having fun experiences and hobbies
We hope that you have found this information helpful and valuable. Let’s support one another as a community and encourage health in all forms!
Struggling or know someone who is? Here are some organizations and agencies that can help!
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org
County of San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health: wp.sbcounty.gov/dbh or 888.743.1478
Riverside County Department of Mental Health: rcdmh.org or 800.706.7500
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): nami.org or 800.950.6264
The Trevor Project (for LGTBQ youth): thetrevorproject.org or 866.488.7386
The Wounded Warrior Project (for veterans): woundedwarriorproject.org or 888.997.2586
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: samhsa.gov or 800.662.4357
Coping with Stress – Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
Covid-19 and your Mental health – Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/mental-health-covid-19/art-20482731
Mental Health by the Numbers – National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/mhstats
Mental Health: What’s Normal, What’s Not – Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/mental-health/art-20044098
What is Mental Health – American Psychiatric Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness
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