by Melissa Chichester
And May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an event created in 1949 to educate the public and raise awareness about mental illness. During this time, there is no better time than to check in on your own mental health and that of friends, family members, and others. One place to start is by understanding the signs of when a decrease in mental health may actually be a sign of mental illness. Knowing more about mental health can empower anyone to help others.
Unfortunately, millions of people deal with mental health issues and mental illnesses around the world.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
These statistics highlight why it is so important to encourage people to seek help for mental health when they need it. Unfortunately, negative attitudes toward people with mental illness or mental health challenges are common. Knowing more about mental health can help diffuse the stigma surrounding it and encourage people to get help.
The science behind mental illness is extremely complicated. It can’t be tested the same way other diseases can; there is no blood test or exam that will deliver a concrete result. Every condition is unique in its symptoms and severity and needs to be diagnosed by a healthcare professional. However, there are signs of mental illness that anyone can look for.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that the following are common signs of mental illness:
When a friend or family member is living with a mental illness or mood disorder, you might feel helpless. However, there are ways you can make a difference.
It is important to note that mental health and mental illness are not exactly the same.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health “ is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
On the other hand, the APA states that mental illnesses “are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these).”
Mental health can be maintained and improved by taking specific actions daily. Mental illness requires working with a healthcare professional to receive the proper testing and potential medications (if necessary).
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Luckily, many actions that promote physical health also promote mental health, including:
For many people, talking about mental health is challenging, and this is completely normal. However, a healthy state of mind is integral to maintaining your well-being. Never be ashamed of asking for help and reach out to a healthcare professional if necessary.