Mental Health Awareness & Advocacy
Mental Health Explained & Its Importance:
What Is Mental Health Awareness?
Good mental health awareness means paying attention to how to manage our emotions and behavior. It means understanding if we have a mental health concern or mental health illness, embracing who we are, loving and accepting ourselves, and seeking greater understanding and growth. It may also mean seeking help in the form of therapy or medication if necessary.
We want to support those who live with a mental health illness and show that it's possible not only to live with a mental health illness but to thrive. Since 1949, May has been known as a mental health awareness month. In 2008, experts at Harvard Health said that anxiety and stress have been associated with severe chronic physical illnesses, including heart disease and GI conditions. That's why we need to take our mental health seriously. It's essential to take care of not only your physical body but your mental health; if you're not well psychologically, you won't be well physically. Remember, the mind and body are integrated.
Why It Matters
What's A Behavioral Disorder?
Statistically, over 18% of adults manage anxiety disorders. These include OCD, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), PTSD, and phobias. Anxiety disorders are genuine medical conditions and should be treated as such. Anxiety can take on many forms including intrusive thoughts, difficulty concentrating, excessive worrying, irrational fears, and panic-like symptoms, to name a few. Panic attacks can make a person feel as if they are going to die. People living with anxiety disorders might be told that their mental health illness isn't valid or to be taken seriously, and that's not true. Having an anxiety disorder is as real as having any medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. Anxiety disorders are among some of the most common mental disorders in The United States.
Depression and bipolar disorder are under the heading of mood disorders and impact 10% of adults every year. Mood disorders mean that an individual has trouble with emotional regulation and difficulty navigating their life because their mood is low or perhaps, shifting. Mood changes can occur rapidly, multiple times a day, or less frequently - every few weeks or months, for example. An example of a change in mood could be that you experience hypomania or mania, and then it shifts to depression in some weeks.
Mood disorders can be mild or severe. Some people live with dysthymia, which is a type of depression that feels like a long period of malaise. Some individuals cope with Major Depressive Disorder, which is a more severe form of mental health illness and can make a person feel incapacitated. People living with mood disorders can benefit from psychiatric medication and sessions with a trained crisis counselor to help regulate their emotional shifts, and keep them feeling balanced.
People who have personality disorders experience rigid thinking and have trouble maintaining interpersonal relationships. Their behavioral patterns are difficult to change but can be modified with the right therapy and medication if necessary. If someone with a personality disorder isn't receiving mental health treatment, their relationships and career can be affected adversely. Some examples of personality disorders include borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.
Psychotic disorders are a collection of mental health conditions that alter your perception of reality. Individuals who have psychotic disorders struggle to differentiate what's real from what is a delusion. A person might see or hear things that aren't there. For a person with a psychotic disorder, it can be difficult to understand what does and does not exist. Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are examples of psychotic disorders.
One of the hardest things for people living with mental health illnesses to deal with is stigma, especially stigma around substance use disorder which is highlighted frequently in the news. The stigma of mental health illness, especially substance abuse, affects people in various ways, and much of the time people feel that they can't or shouldn't talk about living with their mental health condition. Many people live in the shadows. If presented with a box that says "do you have a disability?" when they're applying for jobs, many people won't check it because they don't want to disclose that they have a mental health illness. Stigma can prevent people from reaching out for help and appropriate support. So, what can we do? How can we support those of us who live with a mental health illness? The most important thing to do is to accept individuals for who they are and understand that not everyone's the same and support the rights of those living with mental illness. We're all managing different life struggles, so you never know what someone is battling. The best thing to do is be supportive and understanding to the best of your ability. You don't necessarily need to understand to be empathetic when someone is struggling with a mental health illness.
Here are some valuable resources for specific mental health concerns
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is an excellent human services resource for people with a mental health illness or caregivers of someone with a mental health illness. NAMI has over 500 local affiliates that educate people on how it is to live with various mental health illnesses. You can look at NAMI's website and find a list of further mental health resources and national events around mental health. There are NAMI branches all over the United States, and you can find one in your local area. Some organizations deal with particular issues in mental health. They have the NAMI helpline you can call for further information, and if you're in a crisis 1-800-950-6264.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 - The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of crisis centers. The service provides free, confidential support to anyone, even older adults, in an emotional crisis. It's available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. They want to save lives and help people avoid crisis-level situations.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America - On their site, ADAA cites that 60 million people are living with a mental health illness. ADAA strives to help those living with anxiety, depression, and co-occurring disorders. ADAA wants to empower those who have a mental health illness and their loved ones by providing much-needed resources about mental health awareness. They educate people using scientifically researched theories and help people meet their individual needs.
NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) - Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among mental disorders. It's common for an eating disorder to co-occur with other mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, or OCD. If you know someone who is going through an eating disorder, you can refer them to NEDA for resources.
Don't Make Jokes About Mental Illness
When you make a joke saying, "the weather is so bipolar," you risk offending someone who lives with bipolar disorder and is trying to manage their condition. Panic attacks are real. Joking about anxiety or saying "I'm freaking out. I'm having a panic attack" if you've never had a panic attack is not okay, and can be incredibly invalidating to those who experience them. If you haven't had one, you don't know how it feels and just how seriously they impact those who do have them.
Eradicating stigma is something that people who are passionate about raising awareness for mental health illness strive for, and hopefully, we will get there one day. BetterHelp is dedicated to this cause. Stigma causes people to feel ashamed when they shouldn’t. They feel marked by something that makes them feel inferior or less than others, but no one needs to feel that way. What can we do to fight against stigma?
Read about mental health, ask questions, and educate yourself on the topic so you can appropriately raise awareness. Understand what depression means. Participate in suicide prevention and awareness by planning a community event or advocating for youth mental health. Be sure to check in with those around you, because people don't always necessarily reach out when they're struggling. You can volunteer for local mental health organizations, such as your local NAMI. You can look at nami.org to find places to volunteer. There are hashtags on social media to check out, such as #MHSM (mental health social media) which is a great one. If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal ideation, they can call the national suicide prevention lifeline (mentioned above) at 1-800-273-TALK, which is available 24/7.
You can participate in volunteer activities in your community, whether you start your organization or help out at an existing organization. Volunteer efforts are vital to our communities in several ways because we can save lives and decrease stigma if we can work together. It's important to know about mental health issues, like behavioral health equity policies. You can read about them online or get book recommendations from community health organizations such as NAMI or stopasuicide.org.
The cold hard facts and statistics in the United States are as follows:
- Anxiety affects 42 million people
- Depression impacts 62 million people
- Bipolar disorder affects 6.1 million people
- Schizophrenia affects 2.4 million people
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects 3 million people, which is 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls. There are 100 cases of autism diagnosed every day.
What's Good About Mental Health Awareness Month?
As the statistics increase and mental health awareness grows, we start to see, through personal stories, that nobody is immune. You either have a mental health illness, or you know someone who does, and it's essential for us to fight against the stigma and continue to fight for affordable healthcare in our country. When people talk negatively about medication and shame others for taking medicine or seeing a therapist, it can stop people from getting the treatment that they need. In reality, the effects of letting your mental health condition go untreated are worse - if you don't seek mental health services administration, your health will decline. If you don't treat your mental health illness, the consequences can be dire. For example, untreated anxiety can result in chronic gastrointestinal issues or lead to heart disease.
Beginning A Career In Mental Health
If you're motivated, you can pursue a career in the mental health field. You might pursue a career as a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner. You could become active in public policy for health. With the right education, you can impact change surrounding how our society views people living with mental health illnesses. If you want to work in the healthcare field, and you're passionate about helping people who have a mental health illness, that's a winning combination. You don't necessarily have to be a health provider to help people with mental health illnesses. Anyone can become a mental health advocate for the topics that interest them, like substance use prevention.
Becoming An Advocate For Your Community
Stigma perpetuates lies about mental health illnesses, which is why it's essential to educate yourself about it. Read about mental health issues, and talk to people who live with mental disorders. Find out accurate information from people who live with mental health problems and are willing to share their stories with you. Being a mental health advocate isn't as complicated as it might seem. You can be active with social media engagements and spread the word about why stigma is detrimental to people living with common mental health conditions.
Take Care Of Your Mental Health
It's important to take care of your mental health; you want to make sure that you're caring for your physical health as well as your mental well-being. The most important thing is that it starts with you, taking care of yourself, and promoting your positive mental health. Rely on yourself or your support system for self-care. If you take care of yourself and value your mental health, then you can take care of others. It's okay not to be an activist for mental health care every day. You need to take care of yourself first, and that's the most important thing. If you want to better yourself, it's essential to do so.
Seek Therapeutic Support
Your mental health begins with you. When you make an effort to understand yourself and grow, your mental health awareness will inevitably improve. One way you can do this is to start going to therapy. Finding a therapist is a great way to better your mental health. Whether you seek professional help in your local area or choose to work with an online therapist here at BetterHelp, you matter. That's the theme of mental health awareness month: taking care of you. You want to live a life where you are nurturing yourself physically and emotionally. Therapy is an excellent place to learn about self-care and start implementing ways to take care of yourself in your life. Caring about your mental health might not come easily to you, but it's possible. Start by making the first step and contacting a therapist. You deserve to be well.
Online therapy options like BetterHelp are just as effective as in-person therapy overall, and more effective in the medium and long term in the treatment of mental health illnesses like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD, among others. Online cognitive behavioral therapy for psychiatric disorders like those mentioned in the previous sentence is more affordable, has higher client satisfaction, and has a greater decrease in symptoms than in-person therapy.
You’ll need an internet connection, at least to get started and depending on the type of sessions you’d like to have. A brief questionnaire allows us to choose the right therapist for you, and from there you can chat with them right away to determine if they’re a good fit – if they’re not, you can choose another! Sessions can be conducted via phone calls, high-quality video calls, live voice recordings, or instant messaging/texting. Continue reading below to find the response of members who have sought therapy with some of our board-certified therapists to work through a variety of mental health conditions.
“Claudette is an amazing counselor and person. She has helped me tremendously in the last few months. She taught me several coping skills and made me see the world from different perspectives. I can't thank her enough for her help, and I would recommend therapy with Claudette to everyone struggling with depression, anxiety or just going through a hard time in life.”
"Georgette has been my therapist since the end of August. And not only has BetterHelp connected me with a therapist, but they've also found someone that I can connect with very easily. I've found that therapy isn't this linear thing we expect it to be and that there are ups and downs to it (meaning you're going on a roller-coaster ride, so strap in and hold on tight). Therapy works, if you're actively seeking help/change. If you're resistant, you're not going to think it helps. I was terrified of going to therapy, largely due to my job and because of the huge stigma associated with mental health. But, Georgette has made that a nonissue. I enjoyed the therapy. I'm learning new things every week. And I'm beginning to love human interaction again."