Over the next few days, you can expect blog posts revolving around mental health. My little sister and I have collaborated to raise awareness around this topic we are passionate about. She is currently a graduate student studying to become a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology. She will begin her internship this August, and God willing, will graduate in May 2020.
We took the time to meet and define our goal for each blog post. Our final conclusion was to raise awareness, provide helpful resources, and share how we overcame past difficulties.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It was founded in 1949 by Mental Health America (MHA), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting the importance of wellbeing. During this month, organizations across America focus on raising awareness and educating the public about mental illnesses. This is not only a great opportunity to share facts about mental health but also to help reduce the stigma associated with different illnesses.
What is mental health?
We would define it as the wellbeing of our mind; it is having inner peace. The state of our mind affects the way we think, feel, act, and how we cope with life stressors.
Why is it important?
Mental health is important because it affects our ability to make decisions, how we react to stress on an emotional level, our ability to be productive, and our relationships. For some of us, if our mental health is not properly maintained, mental illnesses can develop over time (e.g. anxiety or depression). For others, mental illnesses are primarily genetic, and maintaining a healthy state of mind, is a daily battle. Regardless of how mental illnesses manifest, taking charge is extremely important in order to maintain a healthy psychological state. As the saying goes, your mental health should be regarded just as important as your physical health. In other words, seek the help required to address the symptoms of mental illnesses.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 46.6 million U.S. adults suffered from a mental illness in 2017. To help put this statistic into perspective, it meant one in five U.S. adults suffered from at least one of the following mental illnesses: addictive behaviors, anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, or psychotic disorders. The NIMH is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. You can learn more about their vision and mission here.
Below is a general list of symptoms of different disorders mentioned in the NIMH website, the source is linked here. The symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Having difficulty focusing
- Making little or inconsistent eye contact
- Tending not to look at or listen to people
- Experiencing periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels
- Experiencing mood swings
- Displaying uncertainty about how they see themselves and their role in the world
- Feeling sad for an extended period of time
- Experiencing feelings of hopelessness
- Having trouble functioning due to irritability in more than one environment
- Developing restrictive eating habits
- Experiencing dramatic changes in appetite or weight
- Displaying extreme thinness in physical appearance
- Having uncontrollable or reoccurring thoughts and behaviors
- Having hallucinations, delusions, thought or movement disorders
- Having low energy for an extended period of time
- Talking about feeling empty or having no reason to live
- Feeling unbearable pain (emotionally and physically)
The first step is to recognize the symptoms. Become aware about the different mental illnesses through research. Below is a general list of ideas of how to begin your journey to regaining control of your mental health:
- Seek guidance and support from someone you trust. This step is probably difficult to do because we mistakenly associate vulnerability with weakness. However, having support from our loved ones can make all the difference.
- Do research to decide the best treatment for YOU. No one knows your body better than you do.
- Prepare questions for your mental health specialist such as a psychiatrist or therapist. If a medication is prescribed, ensure you are aware of the side effects. Do not be afraid to ask for a trial before purchasing medication.
- Join a support group on a social media platform. There are plenty of support groups and online communities available. Begin by doing research and choose the best one that fits your journey.
- Ask someone you trust if they know about a therapist or counselor that could potentially help with the issues you are facing.
- Contact a crisis helpline. These trained specialists are available 24/7 and will refer you to a local mental health specialist, provide an unbiased listening ear, or provide other resources and support. (More information below.)
- SELF LOVE. SELF LOVE. SELF LOVE. Be easy on yourself and remember it is a process. There will be days when you feel you have taken three steps forward, and the next day, you will probably feel you have taken three steps back. It is perfectly normal to feel angry, disappointed, or upset. The road to recovery is not always easy but it is possible. Sometimes it is a matter of starting again the next day and figuring out which method of regaining control fits best for your mind, body, and soul.
For additional steps on how to find a mental health professional, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains how to find a mental health professional in detail. You can find those steps here.
If you are in a crisis and require immediate intervention, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24/7.
To locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment referral helpline at 1-800-662-4357. A Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator is also available on their website.
Additionally, the below listed national agencies, advocacy, and professional organizations have information on finding mental health professionals:
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Mental Health America
- National Alliance of Mental Illness
- For students, most U.S. universities offer treatment options such as counseling services on campus.
If you are reading this, and you are currently battling a mental illness, we want you to know you are important. You are not alone. You are strong. You are loved. And we believe in you. This week, we will be sharing more about our personal experiences in dealing with our own mental battles. We will share our perspective on how we learned to cope with those challenges. If you feel compelled to reach out for any reason, please do not hesitate to do so.
Mayra and Sonia
Please note this is not medical advice. This post is meant to serve as helpful information to better grasp an understanding of mental health. Please seek professional help for diagnosis, treatment, and answers to personal questions.