May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health awareness efforts have been making strides over the past several years to reduce the stigma around the myriad of conditions the phrase incapsulates. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life- from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Posted 5/3/19

By Melissa Anderson

“When we promote mental health, we help people improve their health and wellbeing, have positive self-esteem, and to be valued and contributing members of their communities. Mental health promotion also helps build resiliency in people, helping them cope better during life’s challenges,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHS) states.

“May is Mental Health Month” was started 70 years ago by several organizations to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone. Mental Health America (MHA) notes that during the 2018 Mental Health Month, their materials were seen and used by over 30 million people with more than 16,000 entities downloading MHA’s tool kit. MHA is expanding its focus from 2018 and raising awareness about the connection between physical health and mental health through the theme #4Mind4Body.

“We are exploring the topics of animal companionship, spirituality and religion, humor, work-life balance, and recreation and social connections as ways to boost mental health and general wellness.”

Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and mental illnesses are common and treatable. North Dakota has a population of approximately 739,482 people. Close to 4 percent of adults in North Dakota (according to SAMHSA) live with serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. Of those 4 percent, only 45.8 percent of adults with mental illness in North Dakota receive any form of treatment from either the public system or private providers (according to SAMHSA). The remaining 54.2% receive no mental health treatment.

People’s attitudes and beliefs about mental illness set the stage for how they interact with and support a person with mental illness. It also influences those suffering with a mental illness. Attitudes and beliefs can prevent a person from seeking treatment, although research shows that treatment is effective and people can and do recover.

“When people have positive attitudes about mental health, they may engage in supportive and inclusive behaviors e.g., willingness to date a person with mental illness or to hire a person with mental illness. When attitudes and beliefs are expressed negatively, they may result in avoidance, exclusion from daily activities, and, in the worst case, exploitation and discrimination,” SAMHS states.

Humor, spirituality, recreation, animal companionship, and work-life balance are important for everyone but may be of special importance to people also living with chronic health conditions such as  a mental illness and those who care about them.

Finding a reason to laugh, going for a walk, meditating, playing with a pet, or working from home once a week can go a long way in making you both physically and mentally healthy. The company of animals – whether as pets or service animals – can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to recover from illnesses. A pet can be a source of comfort and can help us to live mentally healthier lives.

Sometimes life is far from funny but finding humor in a situation can lift moods with laughter and help people to better deal with and overcome difficult experiences. Whether you go to church, meditate daily, or simply find time to enjoy that cup of tea each morning while checking in with yourself – it can be important to connect with your spiritual side in order to find that mindbody connection.

Providing for and supporting good mental health is a public health issue just like assuring the quality of drinking water or preventing and managing infectious diseases. Communities prosper when the mental health needs of community members are met. Promotion and prevention involves a new approach to mental health issues. This approach requires people and communities to think and act differently by addressing mental health issues before they become mental illnesses.

“When we promote mental health, we help people improve their health and wellbeing, have positive self-esteem, and to be valued and contributing members of their communities. Mental health promotion also helps build resiliency in people, helping them cope better during life’s challenges,” SAMHS states.

Some important ways communities can promote mental health and prevent mental illness and substance use disorders is to increase protective factors and use promising strategies that address the needs of children, adults, and families in the community. Protective factors include good communication skills, reliable support and discipline from parents and caregivers, support for early learning, quality health care, healthy peer groups, social connectedness, and succeeding schools. Promising strategies emphasize public education and awareness about issues related to mental health and substance use and include early identification of mental health problems and access to appropriate interventions.

“Mental Health America wants everyone to know that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is always the goal. Living a healthy lifestyle may not be easy but can be achieved by gradually making small changes and building on those successes. Finding the balance between work and play, the ups and downs of life, physical health and mental health can help you on the path towards focusing on both #4Mind4Body,” MHA states.

Resources for assistance include Cavalier County Memorial Hospital, Cavalier County Public Health District, and the national 2-1-1 program. 2-1-1 connects callers to information about health and human services.  2-1-1 callers will be connected to FirstLink 2-1-1 Helpline, which provides confidential listening and support in addition to information and referral. Call specialists are also trained in crisis intervention, including suicide intervention.

Content of this article provided by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Mental Health America.

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