Healthier and Happier Humans – Mental Health
This week is about mental health because it is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I want to give a trigger warning up front, I'm going to be talking about depression, anxiety, suicide prevention. It's really, really important that we de-stigmatize these issues, but if you are currently struggling or have struggled, this may be difficult.
Much of this information is from the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI.
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I do want to really stress first and foremost, that mental health is just as important as physical health.
I think a lot of times we talk about what we eat, working out, but we don't talk about taking care of our minds. An appointment with a therapist is equally as important as an appointment with a doctor.
First, I want to give you a little bit of a background on on my story. I am really adamant about talking about mental health because I personally have struggled with depression. I am very much a type A personality and goal oriented. On my first ship in the Navy, I found myself held back by my boss from being able to achieve the bare minimum to do my job successfully. Pair that with a lack of sleep, crazy working hours, and an increased distaste for the work I was doing...I started to feel depressed. I felt stuck, I dreaded work. When I left work at the end the day I would sit in my car and cry.
I also had this crisis of self because I was always this very positive,
upbeat person. And suddenly, I felt sad all of the time. I felt confused and like I was losing my identity.
I asked for help and didn't receive it.
I had no choice but to dig into my coping strategies. I worked out daily, and I started writing. Eventually, when things finally move forward in my work, it was like weight was lifted off. I recovered, but I will never, ever forget that year of feeling constant total despair.
That's why I am so adamant about talking about mental health, being honest, and letting people know that they are not alone.
So let's dig into some stigmas surrounding mental health...
1 - It's not that bad. Other people have way worse issues. I'm just weak. I need to snap out of it.
You do not need to compare yourself to others. What you are going through is legitimate and does not make you weak.
2 - People with mental health problems are dangerous.
Most people are looking for empathy and support. Don't ostracize someone just because you don't understand them.
3 - Nobody will care.
I'm going to tell you right now, there are people in your life that care about you and love you, no matter how alone you feel. Please, please, please, please don't think that nobody cares, because it's just not true.
4 - Your condition is your fault.
Somehow we blame people for having anxiety or depression. It is literally caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. That is not your fault.
So how do we overcome stigma?
- Talk openly about mental health.
- Encourage equality between physical and mental illness.
- Show compassion for those with mental illness.
- Choose empowerment over shame.
- Be honest about treatment.
- Let the media know when they're being stigmatizing.
- Don't harbor self stigma.
- One and five US adults experience mental illness each year.
- One in 25 US adults experienced serious mental illness each year.
- One in six US youth age 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder each year. And suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34.
Not valuing mental health is truly an epidemic and it's taking people's lives.
Lastly, some notes on Suicide Prevention.
Warning signs for suicide:
- Increase alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family and community.
- Dramatic mood swings, impulsive or reckless behavior.
- Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
- Giving away possessions, tying up loose ends, saying goodbye to friends and family.
What you can do
- Talk openly and honestly, don't be afraid to ask questions like do you have a plan to kill yourself?
- Remove means such as knives, guns or stockpiled pills
- Ask simple and direct questions like can I help you call your psychologist or can we call someone to help you right?
- If there are multiple people around have one person speak at a time. Don't overwhelm them or bombard them.
- Don't argue threaten or raise your voice.
- Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong.
- If you're nervous, try not to fidget or pace and be patient.
I hope you found this educational, informational, maybe empowering. Maybe you're struggling and this is what you needed to hear in order to seek help.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or call 911 in an emergency.
I love you all. I hope you feel supported and empowered. And if you need to talk someone, feel free to reach out because I am here to help you on your health journey and that includes mental health.