May is Mental Health Month: The Key is Awareness

Mental Health Month (also called Mental Health Awareness Month) was started in 1949 by an organization that was then called the National Association for Mental Health. It is now referred to as Mental Health America, but it continues to support May as Mental Health Month and draw attention to conditions like depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia, and others, as well as to the needs of people with mental illness and their families.

Mental illness is the term for a wide range of conditions that affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior, often making it difficult to relate to other people and function normally in society. It impacts each person differently, even people who have the same diagnosis. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness, and they can cause everything from minor symptoms to a major crisis.

Mental Illness is a Treatable Disease

One of the goals of Mental Health Month is to ensure that people understand that mental illness is a disease and that it is treatable. Too often we dismiss conditions like depression and anxiety disorder as something that a person just “goes through” and that will dissipate over time. Or, if we understand that mental illness is a disease, we resign ourselves to the belief that the person will simply have the condition for the rest of their life.

Mental illness can be effectively treated with a wide variety of therapies, including counseling and medication. The key is identifying that something is wrong and then taking action to get help.

Signs of Mental Illness
Each type of mental illness has its own unique symptoms, but there are also a number of more general warning signs of a mental health condition. Especially if they appear suddenly or are severe, these symptoms may be indicators of mental illness:

  • Prolonged sadness or irritability
  • Excessive fears or worries
  • Confused thinking
  • Withdrawal from society
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Extreme emotional highs and lows
  • Suicidal or self-harm thoughts or actions
  • Increasing difficulty in managing daily challenges/obligations
  • Significant changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Intense or prolonged feelings of anger
  • Hallucinations
  • Multiple unexplained physical ailments
  • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol

Mental illness affects people of all ages. In younger children, some of the signs of a mental health condition include:

  • Excessive worry or anxiety
  • A decrease in school performance
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Frequent or violent temper tantrums
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression

The Need for Community

While treatment from mental health professionals is an important part of recovering from a mental illness, it is not the only part. The support and understanding of a caring community of family and friends is critical.

Not only can they help a person with mental illness face the challenges they will encounter on the road to recovery, these people can also help break down the stigma surrounding mental illness. By sharing the message that mental health conditions are diseases that can be effectively treated, they can start conversations that generate much-needed awareness and understanding.

Every Month is Mental Health Month

During Mental Health Month — and every month — we encourage people to be aware of the signs of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorder, and others, and to be open to talking about mental health and seeking help if it is needed. Call us at (970) 494-4200 if you have questions about the services we offer at our locations. If you are dealing with an immediate mental or emotional crisis, our Access Center is available at that same phone number 24/7. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.

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