Mental Health Awareness Month was created by the organization Mental Health America (MHA) and has been observed in the United States since 1949.

That’s 70 years ago!

Each year for the entire month of May organizations like Mental Health America (MHA), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and others take an active role in raising awareness about mental health in our communities. They host events, screenings, and reach out via social media to connect with people all over America.

Inpathy and InSight are joining the nationwide effort to increase awareness about the importance of mental health. This year, we’re embracing the idea of “Mental Health Starts With Us.” In that spirit, we are providing resources, strategies and information to highlight the importance of mental wellness for everyone.

Mental Health Awareness Month is a special time of year, because it reminds us to take time to acknowledge the struggle of individuals living with a mental health disorder, and help reduce the stigma so many people experience in their lifetime.

We all experience ups and downs that coincide with the stressors in our daily lives. So a question I’m often asked as a psychiatrist is, “if everyone has ups and downs… how do I distinguish between stress of daily life and a more serious condition that warrants treatment?”

Yes, everyone at some point in their life experiences intense emotions both good and bad. As a mental health provider, we often discuss treatment of a mental health condition when there is marked impairment in social, occupational, and/or academic settings that is not consistent with an individual’s baseline level of function.

Some examples of when to seek treatment are:

  • Excessive worry, fear, tiredness, low energy, and sadness
  • Difficulty with focus and concentration
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Prolonged irritability or anger
  • Isolation
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in eating habits (significantly decreased or increased appetite)
  • Difficulty telling the difference between what is reality and what is not (delusions or hallucinations)
  • Substance and/or alcohol abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or action
  • Inability to perform activities of daily living or handle daily problems and stressors

If you or someone you know is struggling, know there is help out there.

Mental health disorders are medical conditions and should be treated as such.

As a society we don’t shame people with cancer. We rally around them and support them. The same principles should apply to mental health.

Mental health is also not only about identifying a cluster of symptoms and coming up with a diagnosis. There are many different elements that go into making a mental health diagnosis including: genetic makeup, environmental exposures or stressors, and social relationships. Each of these elements is important because it helps us formulate an individualized treatment plan.

There are many evidence based treatments available that can be tailored to a person’s individual presentation and their treatment philosophy. The goal of treatment is to help people better manage symptoms of their illness, learn to better cope with stresses that may exacerbate those symptoms, and help people reach their full potential which allows them to meaningfully engage with the world around them.

*Originally published on the Inpathy Bulletin

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