Sitler: Practical information on mental health
Since the start of the pandemic, more and more people are talking about mental health. A growing number are beginning to see it for what it is: an important part of your overall health and well-being, just like your physical health. But mental health issues, resources, and conversations can still feel complicated and out of reach. May is Mental Health Month, so it’s a great time to learn the basics of your mental health.
Are there common warning signs for mental health issues or seizures? Specific factors that can lead to these conditions or crises? What resources are available – and how do I know if they are right for me? Many people are new to mental health topics. Having a basic understanding of the topic can help you be better informed if you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health issue or crisis.
About half of people in the United States will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives, so everyone should know what to watch out for. Everyone should have the support they need to thrive. Communities that have been historically and currently oppressed face a greater mental health burden due to the added impact of trauma, oppression and harm.
There is often no single cause for a mental health problem. Instead, there are many possible risk factors that can influence a person’s likelihood of suffering from mental illness or the severity of symptoms. Some risk factors include trauma (a one-time or ongoing event); your environment and its impact on your health and quality of life (also called social determinants of health such as financial stability and access to health care); genetic; brain chemistry; and lifestyle such as sleep patterns.
Understanding the risk factors for a mental health problem can be more difficult when it comes to your own mental health. Take time to question your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to see if something you are experiencing is part of a pattern that may be caused by a mental health issue. Here are some questions to get you started:
• Did things that seemed easy start to seem difficult?
• Does the idea of doing everyday chores like making your bed seem really hard to you?
• Have you lost interest in activities and hobbies that you used to enjoy?
• Do you feel resentful, perhaps to the point of lashing out at people you care about?
Our society focuses much more on physical health than mental health, but both are equally important. If you are concerned about your mental health, there are options available. You are not alone – help is there and healing is possible. It can be hard to talk about your concerns, but just acknowledging that you’re struggling is a big step forward.
Take a screen at www.mhalc.org to better understand what you’re going through and get helpful resources. After that, consider telling someone you trust about your results and getting a professional to find the support you need. While you may not need this information today, knowing the basics of mental health means you’re prepared if you ever need it. For more ideas, check out the Mental Health Month toolkit on our website.
Penny Sitler is the executive director of Mental Health America of Licking County.