Mental Health Awareness Month with Mental Health America
By: Rosemarie Tamunday Casanova — RN, BSN, MHA
The month of may is annual mental health month. At this time each year, there is a lot of dedicated effort and action channeled towards creating awareness of mental health.
Although many people are yet to realize it, our mental health plays arguably the most important role in our overall health and well being. Mental illnesses may range from clinical depression , bipolar disorder and anxiety to dementia, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
This aspect of our health is so important that it has a global health burden of $2.5 trillion and in no distant future, that figure is predicted to hit 6 trillion. Mental illness, although not usually reported in many parts of the world, is more common than diabetes and cancer. In recent history, more people have died from suicide than from wars, terrorist attacks and homicides combined. In America alone, 26% of people above the age of 18 meet the criteria to pass for one mental illness or another.
Across the world, 450 million people suffer from mental illness, according to the World Health Organization. It is also of great concern that mental illnesses are expected to become the leading cause of other physical illnesses by 2029. It is for these reasons that it is important to talk more about mental health.
Mental health can therefore be said to be the state of mind in which an individual has realized their own abilities, can cope and withstand the normal stress of life, can be productive and fruitful at work and can effectively contribute to their society.
What could predispose one to mental illness?
It is generally a known fact that mental illnesses are as a result of genetic and environmental causes. However, there are certain factors that may predispose one to them . Here are some of the known factors :
- Family history of mental health; especially affecting direct family members such as parents or siblings
- Use of recreational drugs such as alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine, hallucinogens, etc.
- History of trauma , either physical or mental
- Previous brain injury
- Financial or relationship instability
- Childhood history of abuse and neglect
- Gender; women are more predisposed to mental illnesses than men
Mental Health Awareness
Mental health awareness has been marked and celebrated by Mental Health America since 1949. Over the years, more engaging , interactive and creative ideas and themes that best address the major challenges of the time have been attempted in other to better spread the message . This year, mental health America has chosen to run with the theme ; Tools 2 Thrive.
This year’s theme and awareness is geared towards providing a necessary platform for information and making available an avenue to assist people in improving their mental health. It takes into cognizance the peculiar global challenge of the past one year and how the covid 19 pandemic and its consequent lockdown has affected the mental health of many people globally.
The world health organization, at the peak of the pandemic, recognized and appropriately addressed the obvious concerns of the globally instituted lockdowns and how it could affect mental health. During these times, people were confined to their homes without the contact of friends, family and colleagues.
Some were either temporarily or permanently out of jobs and students were out of school and unengaged. These are classical trigger factors that could affect mental health and there are some authorities who believe that its profound effect is still emerging and will be fully felt in the coming years with the younger age group disproportionately affected.
Learning the following strategies might help to improve mental health:
How to adapt after trauma
Financial challenges and the loss of a dear one are two important causes of depression in our time. Learning to cope with such challenges could be the key between life and death.
How to deal with frustration and anger
Anger and frustration when not properly managed and controlled, could tilt a person into Intermittent Explosive Episodes which is a mental health disorder.
How to get out of thinking traps
Thinking traps are a loops of negative thought patterns that prevent us from seeing reality for what it is, rather seeing it for all the negatives it can become. Being stuck in this trap can lead to anxiety, unproductive lives and depression.
How to process big life changes
Our lives are in a state of constant change. And at some times, certain major life changes occur that can be unsettling and quite difficult to adjust to. The loss of a job, retirement , a medical diagnosis, divorce or war are some of the major life changes that could affect our mental health if not well addressed and managed.
Mental health America hopes to also address the need to take out time outside the mundane routines and cycles to relax, recover and ease off the tension.
In what ways can you contribute?
Take a mental health screening test today
A tool has been made available on the website of mental health America where you can take a quick examination of your mental health. However, this is in no way a medical diagnosis. It is just an attempt to point you in the right direction so that professional help can be sought thereafter. Being aware of your mental health status is the first step to being in control of it and helping others with theirs too.
Donate in support of mental health
Platforms like Mental Health America and many other credible ones accept contributions from free will donors. These funds are channeled into programs and projects that help to address mental health challenges and create mental health awareness across the country .
Share on your social platforms
Mental health America will be doling out digital posters which we can all share on our social media platforms . Another avenue for social media awareness is through the trending of hashtags that will come with the awareness campaigns.
Outreaches and events
Find a group in your local community with the right motivation as you have and be a part of the planning of outreaches or town-hall events to create awareness. You can also be a part of the Mental Health America’s 2021 conference.
Look out for each other
As the popular song goes, “we all need somebody to lean on”. Let us all be there for when our friends and family are in a bad place in their lives and are in need of emotional support . It is perhaps the best thing we can do for them as non-professionals.
Help eliminate mental health stigma
Mental health stigma is one major reason why many people don’t talk about it and many more don’t want to be associated with it. More people walk around with mental illnesses than they are willing to accept. Just like any other illness of the body, mental illnesses require expert management and such should be made available without unnecessary stigmatisation.
This year and always, let us find time within the month to learn, interact and talk with people about the importance of their mental health because mental health provides the much needed balance to physical health. Pledge this day to take action in staying healthy.