One in five people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. As Mental Health Month comes to a close, it is a critical time to spread awareness about this alarming statistic and remember that we must continue the conversation year-round to help those affected by mental illness.
Understanding the warning signs is a crucial first step in decreasing the stigma associated with mental illness and helping loved ones.
Getting access to proper treatment and accepting a diagnosis can be difficult for some individuals living with mental illness. Over 24 million adults coping with a mental illness are untreated. This can result from a variety of factors, including lack of available treatments, lack of insurance, a shortage of mental health professionals, or a disconnect between their primary doctor and the behavioral health system. Even with the necessary resources, people may be hesitant to seek help because of the negative stigma of mental illness.
Stigma is typically fueled by lack of knowledge. A 2017 survey of 4,600 Americans performed by Michigan State University found that 32 percent could not identify signs of prescription drug abuse and less than 50 percent could not recognize the signs of anxiety. Even more alarming, the majority of survey participants did not know how depression is treated.
So, what can be done to help decrease the stigma and spread awareness about mental illness? It is important to become educated and know the signs of a possible mental illness. While there are a variety of mental illnesses that come with unique signs and symptoms, there are general signs to know something may be wrong, including:
- Avoiding previously loved activities
- Changes in sleeping habits or energy levels
- Multiple vague physical ailments, such as aches
- Inability to complete regular daily activities
- Changes in eating habits
- Drastic mood changes
- Continual intense emotions, such as: irritability, anger, stress, or sadness
- A distorted sense of reality
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death of people in the United States and second leading cause for those ages 10-34. With the support of loved ones and increased education of the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, the number of deaths can decrease.
Here’s what you can do to help:
- Listen and provide support – The best way to support a loved one is to learn about the mental illness affecting your loved one. It can be scary for someone to receive a new diagnosis and treatment plan, but being there to support and listen can help calm them.
- Assist in seeking help – The support of loved ones is important in the first stages of getting help. Family and friends who are closest to the patient can be great sources of understanding what treatment is best and to speak to the doctors about the patient’s current situation.
- Support a healthy lifestyle – Face-to-face connection can help a loved one forget about their illness and understand they are not alone. Exercise and physical activity also have a positive impact on mental and emotional health, even as little as a few minutes a day.
Mental health month is not just about awareness; it is also about supporting those struggling with a mental illness. With help from the community, we can dispel the stigma of mental illness, medical resources can be utilized and loved ones can feel supported.
Havenwood provides a comfortable outpatient facility for adults who need mental health counseling, including the treatment of addiction and PTSD. If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health disorder, contact a treatment facility for help. To learn more about the breadth of services offered at Havenwood Behavioral Health, visit havenwoodbehavioral.com/or call us at (864) 660-6217.