Mental Health 101

Your emotional well-being and your psychological concepts determine your level of mental health. The goal is happy thoughts and healthy processing when you have problems to resolve. This leads to a healthy lifestyle that is balanced and reflective of the life you desire. A positive mindset and excellent coping skills will help you get through the tough times and appreciate the good times.

There are many variables that influence your mental health. In addition to your mindset, the world around you and events taking place shape how you feel. Genetics can also play a role in your mental health. While you can’t control all of the variables, there are steps you can take to do your best with them. Your mental health should be something you focus on rather than ignore. Strive for the following:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Effective skills to communicate with others
  • Connect with others and form meaningful relationships
  • Coping skills to assist you through any situation that may arise
  • Daily physical activity
  • Develop hobbies for your free time
  • Get enough sleep
  • Give back where you can
  • Take part in social activities you enjoy
  • Positive mindset
  • Seek professional help if needed

Understanding Mental Illness

There are quite a few concepts that fall under the umbrella of mental illness. Some people associate it with people that commit crimes. However, there is a wide spectrum of concepts that a person can feel that fall into this category. A person can be functional in society but still struggle with mental illness. Others will self-medicate with the use of drugs or alcohol.

Sometimes, an inability to create strong relationships with others or parent effectively is due to mental illness. Individuals labelled as lazy because they can’t hold a job or other factors may indeed have an underlying mental illness. They don’t process information the same way a person without a mental illness can.

When a person struggles with mental illness, it can be difficult to deal with typical daily concepts and responsibilities. How they handle a crisis can be significantly different from what someone else would do in a similar situation. There are numerous factors that can influence mental illness. They include:

  • Biological factors
  • Environment
  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle choices and daily habits

Statistics Relating to Mental Health

Studies show 1 in 5 individuals in the USA has at least 1 mental illness present. The statists show individuals in younger groups, 13 to 18, also experience mental illness at the rate of 1 in 5 individuals. For some of them, the problem is resolved before they become adults due to intervention and professional help. For others, the issues aren’t diagnosed and they become adults still struggling with mental health concerns.

While mental health issues are common, they don’t affect everyone the same. The issue can be mild, moderate, or severe. Some people have several mental health factors and that compounds the problems for them. Sometimes, traumatic events trigger mental health concerns for someone. They may work through them as they go through the various stages of grief. For others, this can trigger an underlying issue they didn’t know was there before.

It is estimated 1 in 25 adults experience a serious mental illness episode annually. This is often referred to as SMI. It reduces their ability to get through day to day responsibilities and commitments. The rate people experience SMI and the depth of it varies from one person to the next.

Women have a higher risk of SMI than men according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The common age group ranges from 18 to 25 for SMI. Studies indicate those of mixed-race have a higher risk of experiences with SMI than other ethnic profiles. Understanding these statistics can help individuals heighten their awareness of their risk factors.

Diagnosis for Mental Health Disorders

Mental health professionals complete an assessment to properly diagnose mental health disorders. They rely on the information in DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) to determine the diagnosis based on the behaviours and other information they collected from that assessment and an interview with the patient. The DSM-5 has almost 300 conditions a person can be diagnosed with.

Professionals are careful about their determination as it influences the treatment for someone. It isn’t uncommon for a patient to be diagnosed with more than one mental health disorder. Along with the diagnosis, the severity of the identified condition is also part of the determination by a professional. This information ensures they can create a unique treatment plan for that person to gain the most value from.

These are the most common conditions people are diagnosed with:

  • Bipolar Disorder – Episodes of manic highs and then depression lows. They may make impulsive decisions during the highs and struggle to do routine things during the lows.
  • Clinical Depression – feelings of sadness or being down in the dumps that last for at least two weeks. If the depression is severe a person may experience suicidal thoughts.
  • Depressive Disorder – Chronic depression without any known underlying factors that would trigger it. The depression must last for at least two years to fall under this diagnosis.
  • GAD – (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) Extreme anxiety that makes it hard to function in day to day scenarios.
  • OCD – (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) Thoughts that repeat themselves or obsessions that cause anxiety when there are any variables can make it hard to live with OCD. Even though the thoughts and routines are irrational, it is very difficult for someone to stop engaging in them.
  • PTSD – (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) This is triggered by a traumatic experience a person went through or they witnessed. Victims of violence and even ongoing verbal abuse may have this type of mental health condition.
  • Schizophrenia – A person doesn’t see the world around them as it is. They are often paranoid and have a perception of things going on around them that isn’t real. They may hear voices or think everyone is out to harm them.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – This is an extreme fear of social gatherings and situations. They may feel that others are laughing at them or judging them. They can’t relax and they don’t enjoy spending time around others.

How to Cope with Mental Illness

Mental health concerns aren’t anything to be ashamed or embarrassed bout. If the problem is ignored, it will continue to get worse and worse. It can prevent someone from holding down a job, maintaining relationships, or being happy. Asking for help from a professional for yourself or a loved one is important. There are services for both children and adults.

Start by discussing any concerns with your primary care physician. They may have some questions for you. They can refer you to a mental health provider in your area. Be open and honest during your assessment with them so they can accurately diagnose any mental health conditions.

Once a diagnosis is made, they can discuss a treatment plan with you. This often includes sessions with them and homework you complete on your own. They may present coping exercises and behaviour modification techniques for you to incorporate into your daily routine. A Psychiatrist may recommend medication along with therapy to get a handle on the mental health condition. With their help, it is possible to have a fulfilling life despite the diagnosis.

Symptoms of Mental Health Concerns

While each mental health condition has its own set of symptoms, there are some common characteristics to learn about. If they are present in yourself or a loved one, it is time to get a proper diagnosis. They include:

• Aches or pains without any medical reason for them
• Avoiding people or activities you used to enjoy spending time with
• Changes in eating habits (eating too much or too little)
• Changes in sleeping habits (sleeping all the time or insomnia)
• Chronic fatigue even when you rest and sleep plenty
• Extreme mood swings
• Feeling hopeless
• Feeling sad or anxious regularly
• Flashbacks from events that you can’t seem to move beyond, they may be triggered
• Going through the motions in your daily life
• Impulsive behaviours
• Inability to complete daily activities
• Lack of empathy
• Self-medicating through smoking, alcohol consumption, or drug use
• Suicidal thoughts
• Trouble maintaining relationships
• Voices in your head you can’t stop

Everyone experiences feelings of stress or times when they go through emotional distress. They are brought on by the events going on in our lives and around us in the world. Such situations make it harder to continue with normal ways of thinking or your daily activities. It can leave to a mental breakdown if you don’t seek help and find ways to cope with what you feel.

Proper Diagnosis

You can’t self-medicate to take care of your mental health concerns. This will only compound the issues you face. Be patient while your diagnosis is being determined. The goal of professionals is to carefully assess what is going on. Your doctor will take a look at your health. They need to rule out any underlying health issues that may be causing you mental health concerns.

Your doctor may ask you to take part in different forms of testing and lab work. They may ask you questions that are part of a questionnaire for a mental health evaluation. A Psychological evaluation is part of the process too. Don’t get frustrated because it can take several appointments with professionals to get an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment Plan

Each person is unique with their needs, and the treatment plan is customised to offer the best possible outcome. It is important to understand treatment isn’t a cure for mental health issues. If you stop going to therapy or stop taking your medications, the problems will get worse again. Your treatment plan may have several layers involved for it to be successful.

Medications are typically a part of mental health treatment plans. Your professional will start you on the lowest possible dose. Only take the prescribed amount each day. Take it even when you feel better, that can be an indicator it is working. It may take several weeks to notice improvements. Your professional will evaluate it again and see if you should change medication, increase the dosage, or if the changes so far are favourable so they leave it the same.

The type of medication a person is prescribed depends on their overall health, the type of mental health condition, and the severity of it. Be open to the idea and follow the instructions. Medications may have some side effects but they tend to go away after your body adjusts to the medication.

Mental health medications fall under one of four categories. They include:

  • Anti-anxiety
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotic
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Pychotherapy

Speaking openly in a comfortable space with a therapist is a good way to get your thoughts and experiences out. They will help you explore concepts, try ways to cope with situations, and identify your triggers. They can help you devise a strategy to feel your best. They help you explore what is standing in the way of feeling your best.

Residential Treatment

If you are at risk of harming yourself or others due to mental health conditions, a residential treatment can be the best choice for treatment. You will live in this facility with around the clock care. You will have daily therapy alone and/or in a group. Some of the programs are for daytime only and you go home at night.

Doing your Best at Home

Changing your lifestyle habits can help you reduce the symptoms of mental health conditions. Follow your treatment plan each day. If you feel it doesn’t work for you, talk to your therapist. Don’t stop taking medications or anything of that nature on your own. Get enough sleep each day and stay away from people and /or situations that will trigger you into negative behaviours. Avoid relying on drugs or alcohol to cope with mental health needs. Eat foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids as they can help increase the feel good chemicals released in the brain.

What to Expect in Therapy

During your therapy sessions, you will openly talk about situations and feelings. The therapist is going to strive to peel away the layers. Their goal is to assist you with finding the core of issues and rebuilding. Behaviour modification can help you change how you communicate or react to certain triggers. Therapy is widely used for various mental health conditions including:

  • Anger issues
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Panic disorders
  • PTSD

The amount of time it takes in therapy to feel better depends on the mental health issues. The healing process can’t be sped up. Give it the time it takes. Dedicate yourself to showing up for appointments. Follow the instructions the therapist gives you as the efforts you make outside of those sessions also influence your outcome.

Exercises for Better Mental Health

Getting the body moving is a great way to improve your mood and reduce stress. It can help you feel better across the board. Listening to music, meditation, and writing your feelings in a journal are also exercises you can take part in specifically to boost your level of mental health and well-being.

Awareness and Recovery

Slow down and listen to your mind and your body. If you notice signs that you don’t feel your best, address them. The same is true if you notice anything off with a friend, loved one, or a family member. Don’t hesitate to talk to them and let them know why you are concerned. Offer support and help them talk to their primary care provider and/or find a therapist.

Seeking help for mental health conditions is important. It doesn’t mean you are weak. It isn’t something you should try to hide. An estimated 40 million people in the USA have some type of mental health issue. Treatment can be a way to save relationships, have a career, and even save lives.

Teenagers are often stereotyped as being difficult and moody. About 21% of them may have some type of mental health condition that isn’t being addressed. It is missed by parents, teachers, and even medical professionals. More professionals are screening teens for symptoms of mental health considers. Parents and educators are given more information to help them identify those symptoms too. They may include:

  • Anger or aggressive behaviours
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or spending time with friends
  • Poor performance at school
  • Sleeping too much or inability to sleep

Some mental health conditions can be controlled with medication and therapy. Others are going to influence a person for the remainder of their lives. If they have a solid treatment plan in place they follow, they can still enjoy a wonderful life. Recovery is a different path for each person due to the unique nature of mental health and the many variables involved with such conditions.

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