Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a great opportunity for us to not only observe the month, but to learn about mental illness. Social stigma against those with a mental health disorder remains prevalent. Mental Health Awareness Month is about eroding this stigma.
We have the non-profit organization Medical Health America (MHA) to thank for taking the initiative to start Mental Health Week. Created back in 1949, Mental Health Week evolved into Mental Health Month several decade later. MHA focuses on the needs of those living with mental illness and advocating for the general mental health of all American citizens.
Types of Mental Health Disorders
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists over 200 types of mental health disorders. According to the handbook, which is used by health professionals to identify and diagnose mental illnesses, the majority of disorders fall under a handful of major categories. These categories can range of anxiety disorders to depressive disorders to schizophrenia spectrum disorder to sleep disorder. As diagnostic medicine becomes better at identifying mental health disorder, society has also begun to realize how widespread the disorder are.
More than 10 million adults who need treatment for a mental illness are not getting the help that they need, while more than 70% of young people struggling with depression are left untreated. However, as we bring awareness to the challenges facing those living with mental health disorders, we may possibly decrease those numbers and begin to empower our community as a whole.
Pandemic, Co-Occurring Disorders, and Solutions for Stress
Due to the pandemic of 2020, this particular Mental Health Awareness Month comes with its own special meaning this year. Those who have never experienced stress before now, or at least not to this extent, may be anxious about germs, fear of themselves or loved ones getting sick or dying, financial security, the state of the American and global economies, and an overabundance of uncertainty.
Individuals already battling previously diagnosed anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other mental health disorder may also be feeling the impact of this viral threat. Couple this with combating a co-occurring disorder with drugs, alcohol, or both, and this may lead to detrimental results. Events from the pandemic may trigger or exacerbate their existing condition.
Here are some ways to ease stressful feelings surrounding the pandemic:
- Avoid drugs and alcohol.
- Do breathing exercises. Breathe in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth with pursed lips.
- Eat balanced and healthy meals.
- Exercise consistently.
- Make time to decompress each day. Do an activity that brings you joy.
- Connect with others.
You can safely connect with others over Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Google Duo, or by phone. It’s also safe to meet with 1-2 of your closest friends or family members in person outdoors while making sure you’re practicing social distancing and taking any other updated precautions advised by a reliable source like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Getting Help During Mental Health Awareness Month
American Addictions Centers provides treatment and aftercare services for those struggling with co-occurring disorders. If you’re currently in a tug-of-war with an active addiction with a substance use disorder or an alcohol use disorder, please reach out to get the help you need today.
Mental illness impacts each of us and the responsibility belongs to all of us to raise awareness. We must all work together to live in a tolerant, healthy and inclusive society.