TOPICS

MENTAL HEALTH IS HEALTH

MENTAL HEALTH IN THE US

1 in 5 adults in the US is experiencing a mental health issue.

1 in 6 children in the US is experiencing a mental health issue.

Mental Health Needs are Normal

Physical health conditions—illnesses, injuries, and disorders—are unfortunate but familiar facts of life. We all experience these things at one time or another, causing us to miss school, work, and other activities we enjoy, while suffering from pain and other symptoms.

Mental health conditions are also common. Many people experience conditions that affect their thinking, feelings, behavior or moods – these are known as mental health conditions. These can impact day-to-day living just as much as physical ailments.

Negative and uncomfortable emotions are normal parts of life. They can occur after a disappointment, while in a stressful situation, or after a loss. Or an individual may worry about a challenging situation in their her future or about the well-being of a loved one. Small life changes can help her feel better, for example getting more sleep, confiding in a friend, or improving diet and exercise. Often, these emotions go away on their own when the underlying situation is resolved.

When negative feelings persist, worsen as time goes on, or make it difficult to concentrate on our daily tasks, seeking professional help is not only warranted, it’s the healthy thing to do. In fact, untreated mental health problems can have a negative impact on physical health, increasing the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes, in addition to straining relationships with family and friends.

1 in 5 adults and as many as 1 in 6 children in the US is experiencing a mental health issue. Most of these people are active and productive community members—their condition has nothing to do with any character flaw or weakness. Many people with mental health illnesses recover completely.

SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Combatting Stigma & Getting Help

Though society’s attitudes are beginning to change, we must challenge some remaining negative stereotypes surrounding mental health conditions by talking openly and compassionately about mental health and treatment.

If you are thinking of harming yourself, or if you know someone is at risk of harming themselves, talk to someone you trust and get help now! There are many resources in your community, including parents, other family members, teachers, school counselors, and spiritual leaders. There are also resources that provide anonymous help and counseling.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

TEENS & MENTAL HEALTH

Adolescence can be an emotionally and psychologically trying time for a number of reasons. Internal changes to hormone levels directly impact mood, sleep cycles, appetite, and more. Teenagers are beginning to make important life decisions, and may struggle with feeling on their own as they face new challenges. This means many if not most teens are vulnerable to mental health difficulties during their middle- and high-school years.

Yet despite the normalcy of mental health conditions, many teens—like many adults—are reluctant to recognize or admit they’re having a health struggle. This prevents them from getting the care they need. Some may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to “self-medicate” and improve their mood and outlook. Others use these drugs as an escape—an attempt to avoid their negative feelings rather than treat them.

The combination of mental health issues and drugs or alcohol is a dangerous, especially for young people. That is why it is important to seek help instead of trying to fix or avoid mental health conditions on your own. Look to available resources in our Ossining community—help is only a click or a phone call away!

Social support is an important part of everyone’s mental health, and can be especially important for teens. Awareness, education, and training for teens and adults are ways of addressing mental health issues by helping people understand the causes, and how to recognize and respond to signs. With support and understanding, teens and adults alike can find ways to cope with negative feelings and thoughts, rather than using drugs or alcohol or engaging in other destructive behavior.

Common Mental Health Conditions

Depression

As one of the most common mental illnesses, depression can affect people of all ages: adults, teens, and even young children. Genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors—including life events—can all contribute to or lead to depression. Depression can range from mild to severe, and is typified by persistent low mood and feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and lethargy. People experiencing depression often no longer engage in activities they used to enjoy, and may stop communicating with family and friends. If someone you care about seems depressed, reach out and offer to listen as a first step towards the help they need.

Anxiety

Like depression, there’s a range of anxiety disorders that may be more or less severe, and may manifest in different ways. Typical signs or symptoms of anxiety are excessive worry, restlessness or feeling on edge, irritability, and disturbed sleep or insomnia. Some people experience anxiety in certain specific situations, or when they’re anticipating or reflecting on those situations. Others may feel anxious in a more generalized way. Both genetic and environmental/life event factors can play a role in developing and prompting anxiety, and there are medicines and behavioral techniques that can help reduce or eliminate anxiety’s symptoms.

ADHD

Many adults, teens, and young children—as well as their parents—contend with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Though it appears to be largely biological in origin, ADHD can be made worse by environmental factors.. Those with ADHD have difficulty controlling impulsive behaviors, and may not think about risks before acting. These tendencies, along with the boredom, frustration, and depression that can sometimes accompany ADHD, can lead to drug or alcohol use. Constructive help—in the form of counseling and possibly medication— are often used to help people with ADHD thrive.

Eating Disorders

Body image is a part of overall mental health, and is especially important for many teenagers. For some, worry about looks and especially size can manifest in an eating disorder. Any behavior that severely restricts eating, involves any type of purposeful purging (through vomiting or the regular use of laxatives), or indicates an addiction for certain foods may be a sign of an eating disorder. Anyone can suffer from an eating disorder, no matter their size, age, or gender.

Schizophrenia & Psychosis

A psychosis is a specific type of mental health condition that doesn’t only affect mood, outlook, and behavior but also the way the brain processes information. People with psychoses like schizophrenia may experience delusions, hallucinations, and other symptoms that represent a break from reality. These conditions require prompt medical attention; with early treatment they may be largely alleviated.

SOURCE: National Institute for Mental Health

WHEN TO GET HELP

When’s the right time to reach out and see if your friend or loved one is OK? Any time, and every time. You don’t need to be worried to open up communication with someone you care about, and if you are worried, you should definitely be speaking up.

And if you are experiencing mental health difficulties, talk to someone you trust. A parent, a friend, a teacher, a religious advisor: all of these can lend an understanding ear, and help you get the mental health help we all need from time to time. You are not alone, help is available.

SIGNS OF MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES

  • Can’t eat or sleep
  • Can’t perform daily tasks like going to school
  • Don’t want to hang out with your friends or family
  • Don’t want to do things you usually enjoy
  • Fight a lot with family and friends
  • Feel like you can’t control your emotions and it’s affecting your relationships with your family and friends
  • Have low or no energy
  • Feel hopeless
  • Feel numb or like nothing matters
  • Can’t stop thinking about certain things or memories
  • Feel confused, forgetful, edgy, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Want to harm yourself or others
  • Have random aches and pains
  • Smoke, drink, or use drugs

SOURCE: US Dept. of Health and Human Services, MentalHealth.gov

COVID-19 and Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional stressors for people of all ages. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and its possible effects on health and family, can be overwhelming. Social distancing can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness, especially among teenagers who want to be socially active points of their lives. Financial stress among adults and the children who perceive it – or must live with the realities of economic uncertainty – can also negatively impact mental stress. It is especially important to be vigilant and open about mental health during these unprecedented times.

Mental Health Can Hide Below the Surface

Negative, unfounded beliefs about mental illness – stigma – can make people feel embarrassed about asking for help. We must all challenge these negative stereotypes and talk openly and compassionately about mental health.

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