Written by Anna M. Mazek-Vann, LCPC, CVDP
May has been dedicated to Mental Health Awareness in the United States since 1949. It is important to keep this conversation going in order to reduce stigma of mental illness, increase awareness of signs and symptoms and discuss treatment options.
So let’s talk about it.
Issues related to mental health continues to be growing problem in our country, in our neighborhoods and in our society. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) as many as 1 in 5 adults in the United States have mental illness and 1 in 25 adults in the United States experience serious mental illness. Also 1 in 5 adolescents ages 13-15 are diagnosed with mental illness. Mental illness impacts lives of people across all socioeconomic and educational levels. There is no group that is not impacted by mental illness.
Yet, mental illness continues to carry a stigma which prevents people from seeking and obtaining help. The stigma of being labeled crazy or dysfunctional. Stigma of not fitting into what the society has defined as normal.
Having an open dialogue about mental health and mental illness brings this issue to light and normalizes it. Having depression, anxiety, panic attacks or other forms of mental illness is not abnormal, it is part of who you are as an individual. Our ability to cope with different life circumstances varies from one individual to the next. That does not mean that one person is better than the other, it just means that their coping mechanisms and strategies are different.
There are some signs and symptoms that are common signs of mental illness. Some of those are:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Feeling excessively sad or low
- Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
- Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
- Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
- Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
- Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
- Changes in sex drive
- Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
- Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality
- Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
- Thinking about suicide, death and dying
- Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
- An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance (mostly in adolescents)
Keep in mind this is only a partial list, but if you are experiencing any of those it may be a good idea to talk to someone and seek professional help. Just remember help is just a phone call away. I believe that everyone can use someone to talk to, someone that can offer safe space to discuss anything and everything that is on your mind. There is no shame or judgment in asking for help.
If you or someone you know are struggling please call and set up confidential appointment.
Remember everyone needs help sometimes.
We are here to listen.
For more information on mental health please check out our website or visit www.nami.org