Mental Health Awareness Month

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An overhead view of a woman walking a labyrinth of stone on sand by the ocean.

Mental Health Awareness Month was started in 1949 by an organization called Mental Health America. To this day, we continue recognizing May as Mental Health Awareness month to further understand our relationship and beliefs about mental health, have conversations about ways to improve emotional wellness and explore ways to reduce the stigma that still exists.

People continue to suffer in silence, feeling alone in their experiences.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), reported in 2018 that it is difficult to know the exact prevalence rates of people that would qualify for a mental health diagnosis. A recent research study conducted by the CRS, indicated that an estimated 26.2% of people in the US have had a mental health issue within a 12-month period.

In my work with expecting and new mothers, these rates are similar to women experiencing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). One in 5 women are affected, making PMADs the leading complication of childbirth.

Yet, many people are still waiting until they are in crisis to seek help.

By the time individuals and couples come into my office for therapy, many have been experiencing their unwanted symptoms for months, even years. As I sit with them in a safe and nonjudgmental space, I hold hope for them, even when they struggle to hold hope for themselves.

It’s scary and vulnerable to ask for help.

There are many elements that contribute to emotional distress. Some of it is biological – unbalanced dopamine or serotonin levels that affect the way someone feels or a neurological issue that affects behavior or cognitive thinking. Other times, it may be a psychological response to trauma that has had a deep long-lasting effect.

Mental health issues can also occur from situational experiences that are really hard to adjust to. Challenges such as the death of a loved one or a major life change like sudden unemployment, divorce or becoming a parent can impact mental health. Then there are relational issues such as challenges with family, friends or co-workers. I also see existential concerns when individuals have fears around larger issues that they feel they have little control over. Some examples of this may be death, spiritual crisis, political issues that challenge personal autonomy, discrimination, community violence and social injustice. These are only a few examples of things that can affect mental health. Everyone is vulnerable. Awareness is the key.

So what can I do if I begin to notice symptoms of a possible mental health concern?
  • Get help early. We know that prevention is an important part of mental wellness.
  • Open up to someone you know and trust.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Practice good sleeping habits.
  • Take time to recharge.
  • Eat regular meals and snacks daily.
  • Check in with yourself and listen to what your body is telling you.
  • Be kind to yourself and seek the help of a mental health professional.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and are feeling suicidal, seek immediate medical attention by calling 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency room.

If you live in California and are ready to begin exploring ways to improve your mental health and wellness, please feel free to contact me.

The contents of this article are for educational purposes and should not be viewed as a mental health consultation, treatment or medical advice.