Mental Health Month
Since 1949 organizations like Mental Health America and many others have used the month of May to raise awareness to mental health and substance abuse disorders. While today, these topics are commonly spoken about and discussed more openly; it has taken nearly 70 years to get to this point and will continue to take further dedication to support mental care issues in our society.
This year’s theme at the Mental Health American Annual Conference is Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll. The campaign itself is titled Risky Business, aimed to educate American’s on the mental health risks associated with certain habits and behaviors. A range of risk factors can include prescription drug abuse or misuse, risky sex, internet/gaming addiction, overspending, marijuana & drug use and obsessive exercise or eating patterns, among others. These behaviors could be signs of mental health problems, increase the risk of developing mental illness or exacerbate a previously diagnosed mental illness.
Raising awareness to the risks when these types of behaviors present is important for all ages. Mental Health America is especially hopeful that tis year’s Risky Business messaging will resonate will young people. As with any disease and disorder, early detection, prompt intervention and awareness of warning signs can help save lives.
If you or someone you know and love is exhibiting any of signs listed above, seek help from your or their physician.
Screen Your Mental Health Risks
Screening tests are available online or through your physician for many mental health conditions. Visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-screening-tools to find online screening tools for the following conditions.
• Depression - for individuals who are feeling overwhelming sadness.
• Anxiety - will help if you feel worry and fear affect your daily life.
• Alcohol or Substance Abuse - helps determine if your use of alcohol or drugs is an area to address.
• Youth Screen - or young people (age 11-17) who are concerned their emotions, attention, or behaviors might be signs of a problem.
• Bi-polar - for individuals who have mood swings - or unusual or extreme shifts in mood and energy.
• Parent Screen - for parents of young people to determine if their child’s emotions, attention, or behaviors might be signs of a problem.
• PTSD - for those who are bothered by a traumatic life event.
• Psychosis Screen - for young people (age 12-35) who feel like their brain is playing tricks on them (seeing, hearing or believing things that don't seem real or quite right).
• Work Health Survey - is a screen to explore how healthy or unhealthy your work environment is. This screen is in its testing phase and every screen taken helps us better understand mental health in the workplace.
• Eating Disorder - can help explore eating related concerns that have an impact on your physical health and overall well-being.
*Please note, these are quick assessments and should not take the place of a discussion with your doctor. Nor do these assessments screen for all possible mental conditions; seek professional help for symptoms listed above and others.
Sooner is Better
Mental health disorders and conditions, just like their physical counterparts, progress over time. Ignoring early signs of mental illness within yourself or those close to you is no different than ignoring a heart attack or standing by while a diabetic binges on sugar and alcohol. The difference is that it can be more difficult to intervene when you suspect a loved one is struggling with mental health issues or admit problems of your own.
Within the mental health community, experts and professionals are often frustrated that many patients don’t seek help until they reach stage 3 or 4 in the progression of mental care conditions. For reference, stage 4 is often defined as being an “imminent danger to self or others”. As with other progressive illnesses, this near-death state typically only occurs during the latest stages of a chronic disease.
Part of removing the stigma of mental illness is by caring for our loved ones and ourselves exactly as we would with any other illness. There is no room for shame or blame. We must help ourselves and others get the help we need as we would with any other illness.
The best work and best hope for full recovery happens in the early onset of mental illness. This is why increased awareness, coverage, intervention and support are critical. The days of turning a blind eye to other’s problems or ignoring our own symptoms are no longer necessary. There is a better path to take. Help is available. Many conditions are treatable and recovery is possible.