For 64 years, since 1949, May has been celebrated as National Mental Health Month. This year’s theme is Pathways to Wellness and the focus is the mental health of young people.
When most people think of mental health, they seem to think of the opposite; they have a tendency to think of people who are mentally ill. However, everyone can benefit from focusing on their mental health.
Mental Health America has a four-step plan to encourage people to concentrate on their well-being:
- Diet – Eating nutritious, well-balanced meals; avoid skipping meals; limit alcohol and caffeine; drink plenty of water; improves your ability to learn
- Exercise – Stay active; even short 15-minute bouts of exercise 3 – 4 times a week helps; elevates mood almost immediately, increased energy and decreases stress, stimulates the release of endorphins and serotonin, and improves your appearance
- Relaxation – Read; listen to music; enjoy a hobby; laugh with friends; avoid activities that involve drugs or alcohol; laughing decreases pain and offers a distraction from problems, muscle relaxation can reduce tension and anxiety
- Rest – Sleep 7 – 9 hours each night; you will be more alert and active the next day, your body needs sleep to rejuvenate both mentally and physically
The four-step plan is a path towards mental wellness that Mental Health America says is usually defined as “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, and working towards achieving one’s full potential.” (mentalhealthamerica.net)
However, for many the threat of mental illness is very real and recognizing the symptoms of a disorder is important. Worry, sadness, anxiety, and sleep problems can all be common when experienced occasionally; although, when they are experienced for very long periods of time, they are incredibly intense, or they begin to interfere with everyday life, like work or school, they may be a signs of a mental illness.
Eating disorders, anxiety, conduct, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are all disorders found in young people, the focus of this month’s awareness campaign.
In the United States, it is estimated that mental health issues affect one in five young people, according to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA).
Although they are not the focus of the campaign this month, adults ages 18 and older are common sufferers of mental illness; an estimated 22.1 percent, or one in five, are afflicted in a given year.
Many communities are organizing mental health awareness walks to raise awareness about illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar manic depression. They also bring attention to suicide and the stigma related to it along with any mental illness that may have precipitated the act.
Mental Health America wants to remind everyone that, just as you would get a screening to ensure your good physical health; it is a good idea to get a checkup to determine a good mental state of well-being. “Wellness is more than an absence of disease. It involves complete general, mental and social well-being. And mental health is an essential component of overall health and well-being. The fact is our overall well-being is tied to the balance that exists between our emotional, physical, spiritual and mental health.” (mentalhealthamerica.net)
During National Mental Health Month, take the time to confirm you are in good emotional health, see a professional if necessary, take time out of your busy day, relax, eat right, exercise, and slow down.
By Dawn Cranfield
Senior Correspondent / Product Specialist