The conversation about mental health is finally open, and many are participating. They ask questions and are no longer afraid to find the answers. However, the majority still shy away from the topic. Too many people continue to deny the existence of mental health issues and live with the symptoms of mental health illnesses because they are afraid they will be ridiculed, isolated, or ostracized. But would things be the same if their parents, guardians, teachers, or other social support systems had known how to tell them about the importance of mental health?
No matter how vehemently we deny it, mental health disorders are real. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults have had or currently have symptoms of a mental illness. And this study only concerns the Americans who have had the courage to step forward. How many other Americans and people worldwide suffer in silence while smiling and denying to themselves that “everything is fine” or “I’m just a bit sad?”
What is mental health?
WHO defines mental health as mental well-being, a state that allows a person to reach their potential and handle the stress in their daily lives. Mental health encapsulates our emotional, psychological, social, cognitive, and behavioral well-being.
Mental health is a factor that plays throughout our life, from childhood through adulthood. Mental health impacts how we experience the world, feel in our interpersonal relationships, and our decision-making abilities. Mental health finds its echo in the way people think, feel, and behave.
What factors can impact our mental health?
A mental health condition is never the consequence of a single event. Most of the time, mental disorders are the result of a plethora of risk factors, such as:
- biological factors – genes, brain chemistry, or a family history of mental illness has been linked with an increased risk of mental health conditions due to the presence of various genes and gene variants;
- socio-economic factors – belonging to a marginalized group or struggling to make ends on a daily basis meet may expose individuals to the risk of developing mental health disorders;
- environment – stresses of life, such as living in poverty or having an abusive family, may trigger mental health conditions, as can stressful events such as the loss of someone dear or a divorce;
- childhood trauma – trauma is often associated with some of the most common mental health disorders our society is experiencing, and adults with a history of abuse;
- unhealthy lifestyle – lack of sleep, an unhealthy diet, or use of drugs and alcohol can significantly increase the risk of developing mental health conditions.
Why is mental health awareness important?
Mental health awareness is crucial for the health of our society. NAMI recognizes May as Mental Health Awareness Month and raises awareness about the importance of keeping the conversation about mental health going and taking the time to listen to people who are struggling with mental health illnesses. The message is simple: you are never alone, and help is always on its way.
Mental health impacts all our life experiences, and people have to be aware of the toll mental health disorders can have on their daily functioning. Among the most common mental health conditions that plague modern society are generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.
Awareness is key if we want to start healing our loved ones, our community, and our society. People need to learn what mental health is, why it matters, and how to recognize the symptoms of potential mental health conditions. Some of the most common symptoms associated with mental health disorders include:
- sleep problems
- loss of appetite
- impulsive decision making
- unhealthy lifestyle choices such as drug or alcohol consumption
- suicidal thoughts
Each mental health disorder comes with its own specific symptoms, but the ones mentioned above are usually a clear indication that an individual is struggling to find their path towards inner balance and emotional well-being.
Ask for help!
Your emotional and psychological well-being matters. Mental health issues can impact everything in your life, from everyday activities to intellectual functioning. They can affect your cognitive skills and social skills. It is vital to care for your mental health. From healthy habits like sufficient sleep, healthy eating, and regular physical activity to healthy social interactions, doing things that you love, and getting treatment as soon as you notice something is not right, there are numerous mental health resources to tap into so you can keep your balance.
Getting treatment and asking for mental health care can make the difference between a life lived and one you’ve just survived. Learn to be vulnerable. If you or your loved one is struggling with symptoms that betray a mental health concern or a medical condition that requires mental health treatment, do not hesitate to ask for help. Read about it, try to identify any potential emotional and physical symptoms, and act! It’s easier than ever to get mental health therapy and talk to someone who can guide you on your path toward well-being.
Break the stigma!
Mental health awareness month concentrates its effort on helping people find the courage to assess their mental health and ask for help if they find that they are not living their best lives. The campaigns and events organized during Mental Health Awareness Month are meant to be the voice that many people feel they lost during the emotional war that has enslaved their brain and daily living.
Mental health awareness wants to normalize talking about mental health illnesses. They are, after all, common illnesses. Dealing with a mental health condition should not be a reason to feel ashamed or isolate yourself. Mental health awareness month educates the public and advocates the importance of policies that support people struggling with mental health disorders. No one should suffer in silence! If they don’t have the strength to voice their pain, everybody else should speak for them.