Millions of Americans are affected by mental illness every year. Since 1949, Mental Health America has led the observance of Mental Health Awareness Month in May as an effort to spread the word and provide resources to those impacted by mental illness.
Mental Health in America
According to MentalHealth.gov, mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health plays a critical role in each and every stage of our lives, from childhood to adulthood. Not only does it affect our mood and how we think and act, but mental health impacts physical health as well. Several factors contribute to mental health including:
- Family health history of mental illness
- Physical causes such as drug abuse or brain injuries
- Biological factors like brain chemistry and genes
- Life events such as traumatic experiences or abuse
Although there have been great strides in recent years in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, there is still a long way to go in eliminating the common misunderstandings. According to Mental Health America, 43.7 million Americans suffered with mental illness in 2017. The prevalence of mental health issues affects not only the individuals, but entire families and friends surrounding them.
Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness
Mental health issues are common but there are many available resources to get help and recover. Some early warning signs that someone may be struggling with mental health issues are listed below:
- Withdrawaing socially
- Unexplained body aches and pains
- Attempts at self-medicating with smoking, drinking or drugs
- Having little to no energy
- A drastic negative change in sleeping or eating habits (too much or too little)
- Severe mood swings
- Lashing out at family and friends
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming others
- Unable to perfrom usual daily tasks like attending school or work
If you feel like you or someone you know may be struggling with a mental illness, it’s important to know the signs and that help is available. Maintaining a positive mental health state improves overall physical and psychological health. Those with positive mental health will feel confidence in themselves, be productive, and manage stress in a healthy manner.
Mental Health Awareness Month 2018
This year’s theme is Fitness #4Mind4Body. As part of their efforts, Mental Health America is leading the #4Mind4Body day-by-day challenge on social media to highlight the importance of brain-body health. They encourage individuals to document their personal health and fitness journeys and become educated on how nutrition affects the mind and body.
Fitness #4Mind4Body highlights the importance of total body health and how physical health can improve our overall mental well-being. Since everything from diet and nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep has an impact on mental health, this year’s theme aims encourages the public to make small changes every day. These small changes, both physical and mental, can lead to huge improvements in overall health.
How to Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health Awareness Month gives organizations the prime opportunity to plan events, show support, and encourage those living with mental illness to get help. Mental health plays a significant role in physical and overall total body health. Here are some things you can do in observing Mental Health Awareness Month:
- Educate yourself on the significance of mental illness and local resources available to those that need help
- Donate to or volunteer at mental health organizations
- Share infographics, statistics, and organization information on social media to spread awareness
- Take a mental health day by treating yourself and spending some time doing something you love to reduce stress and relax
There are many different ways to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month. However you choose to celebrate, the most important part is educating yourself and others on the role that mental health plays in our daily lives. This month, we can all be part of the solution to ending the stigma of mental illness and spreading awareness.