Note: Continuing Education and Workforce Training is not a medical institution. This article is to raise awareness regarding mental health, not to provide solutions. Talk with your doctor if you feel you or a loved one need professional help.
Anxiety, Depression, OCD, ADHD, Schizophrenia, PTSD, Eating Disorders.
Odds are you have someone in your life who struggles with one or more of these mental illnesses. You yourself might be struggling or have struggled with them. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so for those that you love or for yourself, take a moment and learn a little bit more about the oft misunderstood topic of mental health and wellbeing.
What is Mental Illness?
In a broad sense, the term mental illness captures, as stated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), any “mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder”. But such a generalized definition is as helpful as saying both someone with a broken leg and someone with cancer have ‘physical health issues’. In other words, mental health is as broad and varied in causes, symptoms, seriousness, and care as the much more understood physical health.
There are many causes of mental illness. These can range from negative thinking and stress, to traumatic events, genetics, or chemical imbalances in the brain. Additionally, more than one cause is likely to be the reason for any one mental illness.
Symptoms of mental illness vary even within the same category. For instance, anxiety can manifest itself socially–where the person suffering struggles to feel calm or in control around others–or it may arise only when performing or presenting. In the end, it isn’t safe to assume everyone experiences mental illnesses the same way.
This becomes especially true when discussing the seriousness of the mental illness. NIMH (along with most other medical professionals) split mental illnesses into two broad categories: any mental illness (AMI) or serious mental illness (SMI). Whereas AMI typically ranges from mild to moderate in the impact it has on a person’s daily life, SMI “substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities”.
For reference, in 2020, research showed that approximately 21% (or 1 in 5) of U.S. adults suffered from AMI, and roughly 6% (or 1 in 17) suffered from SMI. Young adults, defined as ages 18-25, had even higher numbers at 30% for AMI and nearly 10% for SMI.
Taking Care of Your Mental Health
Thankfully, for as widespread and significant as mental illness is, there are ways to handle it. Again, specific methods change from person to person, but there are some standards that help everyone.
The most important thing anyone struggling with their mental health can do is to open up to a trusted individual. This may be a family member, a friend, or a professional. Keeping your challenges to yourself is likely to only exacerbate the problem. There is no shame in needing help, just as there would be no shame in getting help for a broken limb or other physical ailment.
Many mental health challenges are less serious or situational and don’t need the help of a professional. These can include stress, seasonal depression, grief, and many more. There are plenty of small things that you can do that can make a world of difference. Valuing yourself with positive affirmations, taking care of your physical health through diet and exercise, being around good people, and meditation are just some of the few solutions to help break you out of a tough spot.
If you or a loved one is struggling, however, getting medical help can be effective and worthwhile. Talk with a professional counselor and your doctor about medication and other tools you can use.
Unfortunately, many people are not receiving the help they need. Mental health can affect your life as seriously as your physical health. As such, it is important to give yourself the same level of care mentally as you do physically.
Mental health is manageable. It takes time and effort, but you or your loved one can overcome mental illness and live your life to the fullest. It’s our hope here at CEWT that you’ll take the rest of this month to be more aware of your mental health.
After all, you matter.
To help combat mental illness and to raise further awareness, ISU CEWT will be hosting a Mental Health Wellness event during Mental Health Awareness Week October 2nd to October 8. Be watching for more information!