May: Mental Health Month – Spread the Word

Research shows that 1in4 adult Americans live with a diagnosable mental health condition. Up to 50% of those people living with a mental health condition never seek or receive help due to stigma, lack of information and/or cost or lack of health insurance coverage. Many people may be reluctant to ask for help or don’t know where to find it. There are many prevalent mental health issues that plague our communities and we have to begin to “fight” against the stigma, ignorance and resistance to become mentally healthy.

Depression robs people of the enjoyment found in daily life and can even lead to suicide. According to a Surgeon General report, African-Americans are over-represented in populations that are particularly at risk for mental illness. A common myth about depression is that it is “normal” for certain people to feel depressed—older people, teenagers, new mothers, menopausal women, or those with a chronic illness. The truth is that depression is not a normal part of life for any African-American, regardless of age or life situation. Unfortunately, depression has often been misdiagnosed in the African-American community. The myths and stigma that surround depression create needless pain and confusion, and can keep people from getting proper treatment. This is just an example of one of the mental health conditions that affect many people of many cultures and religious backgrounds.

Trauma is another highly critical mental health concern in our communities. Trauma can be extremely toxic to our bodies and our brains leaving us with the inability to cope with situations. Unresolved trauma can manifest in many ways, including anxiety disorders, panic attacks, intrusive memories (flashbacks), obsessive compulsive behaviors, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, addictions, self-injury and a variety of physical symptoms. Trauma increases health-risk behaviors such as overeating, smoking, drinking and risky sex.  Trauma survivors can become perpetrators themselves if not treated. A movement for trauma-informed care has emerged to ensure that trauma is recognized and treated and that survivors are not re-victimized when they seek care. Complementing these changes are programs to promote healthy development of children and healthy behaviors in families, schools and communities that reduce the likelihood of trauma.

While mental health and substance abuse conditions are common, they are extremely treatable and individuals go on to recover and lead full and productive lives.
A strong positive mental health foundation can lead to greater resilience, our process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience. These relationships may be hard to accomplish in family systems without supportive mental health education and/or resources in our communities.

Mental Health America (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/) is the nation’s largest and oldest community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates across the country, we touch the lives of millions–Advocating for changes in mental health and wellness policy; educating the public & providing critical information; and delivering urgently needed mental health and wellness Programs and Services.

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, (http://www.nami.org/) is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raising awareness and building a community of hope for all of those in need. From its inception in 1979, NAMI has been dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

These are two of the many other mental health organizations in your area that offer resource and support. It’s important that more people are knowledgeable about treatment and services. We all have a chance to lead a healthier physical and mental life.

Nicole Daniels, LCMFT

Sources:
ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 23, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — “Healing Trauma’s Invisible Wounds”
Mental Health America – http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/information/mental-health-info/depression/depression-and-african-americans/depression-and-african-americans
American Psychological Association – http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx

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