May is Mental Health Awareness month. 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffer from mental illness each month and less than half of those receive the treatment they need. These are only numbers for the U.S. as well, making it all the more important to bring awareness to this epidemic. Many don’t realize that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance, much like diabetes or any other chronic, physical condition. However, many still view mental illness as a weakness and not a medical condition that can be treated.
There are so many types of mental illnesses, I won’t even begin to go into detail on all of them. However, the two most common illnesses seen in the U.S. are depression and anxiety. Mental illness manifests differently in everyone, but some common signs and symptoms to be aware of are feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks, trying to harm or end one’s life or making plans to do so, severe, out of control, risk-taking behavior that causes harm to oneself or others, sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, significant weight loss or gain, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, drastic changes in mood, sleeping habits, or personality, extreme difficulty concentrating or sitting still, and intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities. If you recognize any of these in yourself or others, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a helpline that can be reached at 1-800-950-6264.
Recently I have become a lot more open about my own struggles with my mental illness (a combination of anxiety and depression which are often seen together) in order to try and beat the stigma. Only 34.9% of men seek treatment for their mental illness compared to 48.6% of women. A large contributing factor to the difference in these rates is the social norm surrounding masculinity and what it means to be a man. Often, displaying emotions other than anger and seeking help for mental health are seen as signs of weakness in men. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Asking for help is the bravest and one of the hardest things you can do if you are struggling with a mental illness.
Now, let’s talk about suicide, because it is okay to talk about. Our continued silence around this heavy subject is doing nothing to help those suffering. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of people aged 10-34 in the United States, one rank above homicide. We constantly discuss murder and homicide as an issue in America and it is, I am not saying that it isn’t. However, the lack of a discussion around suicide is causing more harm than good. Our refusal to discuss it creates an environment where individuals having thoughts of harming themselves feel they can’t talk to anyone. I want you to know that is not true. We at Carpe Diem EDC are neither clinicians nor mental health professionals, but we are here to support you. If you or anyone you know is having thoughts of harming yourself/themselves call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Life is fragile and so is our mental health at times. Please take care of yourselves and reach out to your friends and family just to check in from time to time. Make every moment count and don’t forget to seize the day.
All information in this post was gathered from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org) and the National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov). Please visit these websites for more information.