The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

May is the official Mental Health Awareness month, but being aware of the prevalence, the signs and symptoms of mental illness are important year-round.

Approximately one in five adults, or 43.8 million people, experience a mental illness each year.   Behavioral health issues are very treatable.  Unfortunately, many people do not seek help in the management of their illness due to the stigma that is associated with having a mental health issue.

Oxford defines stigma as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person.”  Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, but a medical condition that requires treatment.  The more widespread that understanding, the better chance of people seeking advice and care from a medical professional.

Each May for Mental Health Awareness Month, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) places extra emphasis on stopping the stigma associated with mental illness.  CureStigma is the theme that will be stressed throughout 2018.   The stigma can be removed by expressing sympathy, empathy and understanding.  And, knowing the signs and symptoms of mental illness is vital so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.  According to NAMI, the following are typical signs of mental illness in adults:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

If you or someone you know exhibits signs of mental illness, please seek help immediately.  The sooner treatment begins, the better the outcome.  While mental illness may require ongoing treatment, the stigma associated with the disease is 100% curable.