May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act and determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Just like physical health, everyone has mental health. Mental health conditions are more common than you think mainly because people don’t like to or are afraid to talk about them.
FACT: 1 in 5 US adults experience mental illness each year, and 1 in 6 US youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
Mental health is on a continuum. We are all somewhere on the continuum. It’s normal to go through the ups and downs of life. Sometimes we bounce back but other times we may need help to recover and return to feeling our usual self.
At one end of the continuum is healthy and adaptive coping (green). In the green phase, we have normal fluctuations in mood, normal sleep, we are physically well and socially active. In this phase, when you experience challenges, break problems into manageable chunks, identify and nurture support systems, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In the “yellow” or “reacting” phase, we experience more irritability, nervousness or sadness. We have trouble sleeping, we feel tired and have muscle tension or headaches. We procrastinate more and engage in less social activities. If you are in the yellow phase, recognize your limits, get adequate rest, food, and exercise, engage in healthy coping strategies, and identify and minimize stressors.
In the “orange” or “injured” phase, we have increased anxiety, anger, sadness, and hopelessness. Sleep is restless or disturbed. We feel fatigued and have more aches and pains. We have decreased performance at school or work and withdraw more from family and friends. In this phase, it is important to identify and understand your own signs of distress, talk to someone, seek help and seek social support instead of withdrawing.
In the “red” or “ill” phase, we have excessive anxiety, depressed mood and can become easily enraged. We have difficulty falling and staying asleep. We experience exhaustion and physical illnesses. We are unable to perform duties, may miss work or school. We avoid social activities and isolate ourselves. If you find yourself in this phase, it is critical to talk to someone you trust and seek help from a mental health professional.
Anyone can move in either direction along the continuum, meaning that there is always a possibility to return to full health and well being.
We can break the stigma by ending the silence about mental illness. The first thing you must know is that you are not alone. Help is available.
If you or someone you know needs help today:Text 'HOME' to the Crisis Text Line at 741741Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255