Twist your ankle and you’ll probably tell your friends and family. But if you’re feeling down, depressed, or anxious, most people are less likely to talk about it with friends and family. While talking about mental health is becoming more and more common, we’re not there yet. People may worry about what others think or not know what help is available. If Olympic athletes, musicians and other famous people can talk about their struggles and get help, we can all do better. Talking openly about mental health can help reduce stigma over time and increase the likelihood that someone will receive appropriate support when they need it.
(This article is not medical advice. Seek help from a medical professional.)
What is it?
According to the CDC: Mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we deal with stress, how we relate to others, and how we make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. It is important for overall health.
Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. For example, depression increases the risk of many types of physical health problems, especially long-term conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk of mental illness.
Signs or symptoms of mental health problems
Examples to watch out for:
• Change in sleep patterns
• Change in appetite
• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
• Change in energy level
• Withdrawal from friends and activities
• Mood swings; anger for no apparent reason
• Change in alcohol or drug use
• Excessive anxiety or worry
If you feel these yourself, consider asking for help. If you see this in others, talk about it. It can be a nudge to seek help.
How common are disorders?
Mental illnesses are among the most common health problems in the United States.
• More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives.
• 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in any given year.
• 1 in 5 children currently or at some point in their lives has had a severely disabling 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 anxious, we should take time to reflect on what is in our control and what is not. The serenity prayer is used by many:
God, grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to see the difference.
Reduce time on social media. Increase physical activity. Use yoga or meditation to clear the mind. Search the internet 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 any other source of messages for reflection. Try keeping a journal and 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 them, only 13% of Hispanics and 15% of blacks received treatment, compared to 30% of whites.
Recently, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended for the first time that physicians screen all adult patients under age 65 for anxiety, in an effort to help prevent mental disorders from going undetected. The same group made a similar recommendation for children and teens earlier this year. There are many types of mental health professionals who can help. NAMI New Mexico serves residents of our counties with free mental health support, online groups, resources and education, visit naminewmexico.org or call (505) 260-0154 (not a crisis line).
988 suicide, crisis line
New Mexico had the fourth-highest suicide rate in the United States in 2020, 79% higher than the U.S. rate, according to a state mental health survey released in April 2022. If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, please contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in Lifeline’s national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
Talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional about mental health problems. Ask them to connect you to the appropriate mental health services. If the situation is potentially life-threatening, get emergency help immediately by calling 911, available 24 hours a day.
Sources: cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm; nmhealth.org/data/view/report/2650/