Mental Health Month: Information and Resources to Stay Mentally Fit

May is Mental Health Month. Having a designated month reminds us to think about our own mental health and consider whether any peers or loved ones need our attention.

Here are a few facts from the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
*One in five adults in America experiences a mental illness.
*Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-fourths by the age of 24.
*Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
*Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earning every year.
*African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about half the rate of white Americans in the past year and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
*Approximately 10.2 million Americans have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders.
*90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S.
*Approximately 24% of state prisoners have “a recent history of a mental health condition.”
*Approximately 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness.

There are many different types of mental illness with varying degrees of severity. There is, unfortunately, still a stigma surrounding mental illness that leaves some people reluctant to seek help. If we, as a society, considered mental illness as we would any other physical condition, it would help bring the problem out of the shadows. If more people felt free to discuss their experiences, they could more readily find the help they need. Mental illness should not be viewed as a weakness or a short-coming, but as a condition that needs treatment and understanding.

While some people are helped with medication, which can work wonders if administered correctly, there are a variety of other treatments available. Depending on the problem, people can seek help through psychotherapy, counseling, nutrition, meditation, exercise, light therapy, acupuncture, as well as self-management strategies and education. I, personally, have found walking to be helpful when I am feeling anxious or down. It can be helpful just to have a change of scenery and expend some nervous energy.

Part of the struggle with mental illness, which sets it apart from other illnesses, is that it can be hard to assess your own psychological well-being when it is compromised. If you suffer from depression, for example, it can be hard to set the wheels in motion for getting help when you are barely able to do your ordinary daily tasks. If you have hallucinations or hear voices, it could be hard to know whether they are real or not.

Since mental health affects so many aspects of our lives, it is important to address problems when they arise. Perhaps because of stigma, lack of insurance or poor access to help, many people ignore their problems or fall into a pattern of destructive behaviors in an effort to self-medicate. This can result in drinking, drug use, hoarding, over-eating, over-spending — anything to dull the negative feelings temporarily. Life is too short to spend time suffering silently or failing to thrive.

The library has many books on self-help and mental illness, such as:

If you need help, here are some resources:

Feature image credit: Wokandapix, Mental Health via Pixabay (license)