May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S., and it is an excellent time to define mental illness and talk about the importance of seeking help to maintain good mental health.
Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the U.S.; more than 50 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder within their lifetime. Despite the widespread diagnoses, however, people who experience mental health symptoms (e.g., feeling down, frequent mood changes, increased worry, substance abuse, etc.) may be reluctant to seek help due to the misconceptions surrounding mental health and the stigma often associated with mental illness. Stigma has been described as shame felt due to actual or perceived discrimination or an internal feeling that confuses feeling bad with being bad.
Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it impacts how you think, feel, and act and determines how you handle stress or relate to others. In addition, your mental health can change over time and influence your life situations like job stress, the loss of a loved one, or changes in physical health.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are medical diagnoses no different than diabetes or heart disease. These conditions can be situational or chronic and may affect your ability to function in everyday life.
You may experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Conversely, a person with a mental illness diagnosis might experience good mental health if the illness is properly treated and managed.
When you experience mental health symptoms, the most critical first step is to seek help. Talking to a counselor or therapist, or seeing a personal doctor, can help you understand symptoms, identify underlying causes and develop a treatment plan to improve mental health.
Sometimes finding a provider or scheduling a timely appointment can be challenging. Virtual visits can be a secure, convenient way for people to access care. If you want local resources, please check out our resource page online. Also, please look at our referral assistance program if you need help paying for counseling.
If you or someone you know needs immediate attention, please call or text the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 or go to the nearest ER hospital for observation. It’s okay not to be okay.
Keep Moving Forward,
Executive Director, Thumbs Up