Health Matters: May is Mental Health Month
Mental health is an essential component of wellness; however, unlike a broken bone or the flu, mental illness can be hard to recognize. Unfortunately, people can be reluctant to share their symptoms because they worry about lingering stigmas.
Many people do not realize how common mental illness is. The fact is, about one in every five adults in the U.S. experiences a mental health condition in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Anxiety disorders are the most common, affecting both children and adults. An estimated 40 million American adults (almost 1 in 10) suffer from anxiety disorders, but only about 13 million receive treatment, even though the disorders are highly treatable. Depressive disorders are also common with approximately 16 million American sufferers–that’s about 1 in 20 (www.adaa.org). Ignoring this can have tragic results. Look no further than our own communities: suicide rates in Lake and Mendocino Counties are among the highest in California.
For some, mental health symptoms seem to appear out of the blue, without any obvious triggering event or situation. For others, symptoms appear during life’s major stressors: traumatic events, divorce, the death of a loved one or physical illness. These circumstances can leave people feeling out of control and struggling to cope, and can put them at greater risk of developing more serious mental health impairments.
If you or a loved one is experiencing something like this, the first step to getting help is to recognize what is happening. Below are some of the signs to be aware of for the two most common mental health conditions. If you experience these or other symptoms, please tell a medical or behavioral health professional.
People with significant anxiety may notice some or all of the following symptoms lasting for more than two weeks:
- Excessive worry about health, money, family, work, or school performance
- Feeling afraid, as if something awful might happen
- Trouble relaxing
- Becoming easily annoyed or irritable
- Muscle tension
People suffering from a depressive disorder will likely notice some of the following symptoms lasting for more than two weeks:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
- For children irritability is common
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
- Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way. (If you or a loved one are having these thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or the Redwood Community Crisis Line at 1-855-838-0404.)
Physical symptoms that may or may not occur along with the symptoms above can include:
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
- Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading or watching television
- Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
- Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
Since 1949, an organization called Mental Health America has been highlighting the month of May to build awareness and to promote prevention, identification, and treatment of mental health disorders. MCHC Health Centers is proud to join this effort and promote mental health during the month of May.
This year’s Mental Health Month theme is “Risky Business.” These include habits and behaviors that may increase the risk of developing or worsening an existing mental illness; or are signs of mental health problems. These include such diverse factors as risky sex, recreational drug use, internet/gaming addiction, excessive spending and disordered eating (www.mentalhealthamerica.net).
For some, the “risky” behaviors are indicators of an underlying problem. For others “risky” behaviors are an attempt to manage uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Ironically, in an effort to feel better, people sometimes engage in behaviors that in the end have them feeling worse. If this sounds like you, let your healthcare professional know.
At MCHC Health Centers, Behavioral Health specialists work with medical professionals to assess a person’s overall health, physical and emotional. We are here to help, not judge.
We are all in this together.