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Twist your ankle and you are likely to tell your friends and family about it. But feel down, depressed or have anxiety and most folks are less likely to talk about it with friends and family. While talking about mental health is becoming more common, we aren’t there yet. People may be concerned about what others may think or not know what help is available. If Olympic athletes, musicians and other famous people can talk about struggles and getting help, we can all do better. Talking openly about mental health can help reduce the stigma over time and increase the likelihood someone will get appropriate support when they need it.
(This article is not medical advice. Seek help of a medical professional.)
What is it?
According to the CDC: Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. It is important for overall health.
Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.
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Signs or symptoms of mental health concerns
Examples to watch for:
• Change in sleep patterns
• Change in appetite
• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
• Change in level of energy
• Withdrawal from friends and activities
• Mood changes; anger for no apparent reason
• Change in use of alcohol or drugs
• Excessive fear or worries
If you are feeling these yourself, consider asking for help. If you see this in others, talk to them. It may be the nudge to get help.
How common are conditions?
Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.
• More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
• 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
• 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
• 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression.
Optum New Mexico family physician Dr. Gilberto Heredia shared that when we are stressed or having anxiety, we should take time to consider what is in our control and what is not. The Serenity Prayer is used by many:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Reduce time on social media. Increase physical activity. Use yoga or meditation to help clear the mind. Do a web search for free meditation programs. Increase face-to-face interactions with friends and family. Feed your brain by reading. Get a free Daily Stoic email dailystoic.com/dailyemail or other source of messages for reflection. Try journaling, writing down your thoughts and feelings to better understand them.
Researchers found differences in who was most likely to receive mental health treatment by race among adults ages 18 to 44. Of those, only 13% of Hispanics and 15% of Blacks received treatment compared with 30% of whites.
Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended for the first time that doctors screen all adult patients under 65 for anxiety in an effort to help prevent mental health disorders from going undetected. The same group made a similar recommendation for children and teens earlier in the year. There are many types of mental health care professionals that can help. NAMI New Mexico serves residents across our counties with free mental health support, online groups, resources and education, go to naminewmexico.org or call (505) 260-0154 (not a crisis line).
988 suicide, crisis line
New Mexico had the fourth-highest rate of suicide in the United States in 2020, 79% higher than the U.S. rate, according to a state study on mental health released in April 2022. If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
Talk to your primary care doctor or another health professional about mental health problems. Ask them to connect you with the right mental health services. If the situation is potentially life-threatening, get immediate emergency assistance by calling 911, available 24 hours a day.
Sources: cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm; nmhealth.org/data/view/report/2650/