The month of May is National Mental Health Month, and it's important to bring awareness to this for many reasons. Physical health often takes the spotlight over mental health, and it's common for many mental health issues to slip by, undetected. Not only does mental health impact your mind, but its effects can extend to your physical health as well, potentially causing problems with many aspects of your overall wellbeing. Therefore, it's critical to keep up with the state of your psychological wellness, and being able to do so required that you have the proper facts about mental health.
1. U.S. Adult Prevalence: The National Institute of Mental Health reports that around 18.6 percent of American adults aged 18 and older will experience mental illness in a given year. This equates to about 43.7 million, or 1 in 5.
2. U.S. Youth Prevalence: Around 46.3 percent of children aged 13 to 18 will experience any mental illness at some point in their lives. When it comes to severe mental illnesses, 21.4 percent of children in this same age group will experience it in their lifetimes.
3. Fatalities from Suicide: While mental illness on its own does not typically cause death, suicide as a result of severe mental illness is common. About 90 percent of those who commit suicide have an underlying or diagnosed mental disorder, and around 30,000 Americans die each year as a result of suicide.
4. How Mental Health Can Affect Physical Health: Having certain mental illnesses, like depression, can put you at an increased likelihood of developing other health conditions. According to a 2010 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, there may be a connection between depression and diabetes. The female participants in the study who were depressed were found to be 17 percent more likely to develop diabetes. There was also an increased likelihood of the opposite occurring: those who already had diabetes were found to have a higher chance of developing depression. Additionally, a recent study indicates that depression may increase the chance of getting dementia.
5. Common Mental Illnesses: Some of the most common forms of mental illness are major depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders.
6. General Symptoms: There is a wide range of symptoms of mental illness, and they are dependent upon the specific condition. However, the Mayo Clinic states that these symptoms may indicate a possible mental disorder:
- You feel sad, down or not yourself on a consistent basis.
- You have a hard time concentrating or simply thinking clearly.
- You have a loss in appetite.
- You no longer have interest in activities you used to enjoy.
- You have feelings of hopelessness or a bleak outlook.
- You feel anxious, stressed out, angry or agitated.
- You have low energy levels.
- You have little interest in sex.
- You are experiencing detachments from reality, which may include hallucinations or paranoia.
- You can't cope with stress.
- You have thoughts of harming yourself or others.
7. Risk Factors: Many mental disorders run in families, and genetics play a significant role in determining your chance of developing a mental health condition. Other factors that may be involved are brain chemistry, life events and personality.
8. Screening: Currently, efforts are being made to implement regular mental health screenings into schools, primary care health facilities and other institutions. Right now, you can take a free, anonymous mental health screening here to help you determine whether you may be experiencing a psychological condition which may require professional help. Talking to your doctor is always the best, most accurate method of discovering this, however.
9. Treatment: Most mental illnesses require treatment with cognitive behavorial therapy, medications or a combination of the two. Between 60 and 90 percent of those who suffer from serious mental illnesses are able to experience a significant reduction in symptoms and overall improvement with treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
10. Erasing Stigma and Moving Forward: Many people are afraid, embarrassed or ashamed to address the topic of mental illness, and especially admit that they have one. By making mental health a more common topic of conversation and bringing it out into the open, there is a better chance of successful diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Certain political figures and health organizations are rallying for a better handling of mental health discussion and treatment. In medicine, progress is being made every day to come up with new ways of treating mental illness. A 2015 study found that major depression may leave a "metabolic signature," which may be able to help scientists monitor mental health at the molecular level in the future, upon further research.
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. While May is National Mental Health Month, it's critical to support your mental health every month and every day. If you suspect you may be struggling with a mental illness, please contact your doctor immediately. If you can't talk to your doctor, reach out to a friend or family member, or call 911 for immediate support.
Thanks for reading, and stay well.