While in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember that this May is Mental Health Awareness month. Over 43 million Americans live with some sort of serious mental illness. Unfortunately, only 41% of those struggling receive treatment for mental illness. The challenges of mental health take many different forms.
The first step to solving any issue is to recognize the problem. The signs or symptoms of mental or emotional illness range from feeling excessively sad to the difficulty perceiving reality accurately. Trying to understand the difference between common struggles and signs of mental illness isn’t always easy. Sometimes the symptoms of mental or emotional illness themselves can hinder self-reflection and cause those who could benefit from help to not reach out as quickly as they could. Understanding the symptoms of common mental illnesses can help friends and family members be supportive in the quest for assistance. The importance and therapeutic effect of social support cannot be overemphasized. Each mental or emotional illness has a unique set of diagnostic criteria, but many share common symptoms.
Common symptoms include:
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Rapid changes in mood
- Feeling disconnected from reality
- A loss of interest in favorite activities
- A strong feeling of nervousness
These common symptoms may indicate that a consultation with a mental health professional may be needed. A mental health professional can help determine if a diagnosis is warranted and determine a plan to help resolve symptoms. Unfortunately, many people ignore such signs and believe “I’m fine” or “what’s the point?” to make themselves feel better. Often small signs left unattended can lead to more significant symptoms. Generally, early diagnosis and treatment can minimize the chances of things getting significantly worse. For example, experiencing a significant loss like the death of a loved one or being laid off from a promising career, requires a grief process to get better. If we do not properly grieve our losses, the unresolved grief can turn into the bigger problem of depression.
The goal of Mental Health Awareness month is to help the millions of Americans who need help with mental and emotional issues to become more aware that effective help is available. Education can help reduce any remaining stigma about seeking mental health treatment that might get in the way of seeking assistance. Educating ourselves about mental and emotional illness can help those of us who need help to find and take advantage of the resources that are available or help those of us with a loved ones who are suffering to be supportive in assisting our friends or family to find the help they need.
The month of May is a reminder that none of us have to be alone in this fight. The good news is that we can all learn to deal more effectively with negative emotions rather than hiding, pushing away, or denying feelings. We can all learn to practice greater self-compassion, increase our social support system, slow down and take a pause and breath, make more time to enjoy our favorite activities, and make sure we reach out when we need help or when someone else we care about could benefit from counseling.
When you or someone you care about needs help, The Center for Collaborative Counseling and Psychiatry is here for you. Happy Mental Health Awareness month and always remember, none of us have to be alone in this fight to improve mental and emotional health for us all.