May is Mental Health Month
May is Mental Health Month

Long term readers may remember I was a public health major in college and worked in the field right after college.

When I worked in the field and before moving to New Jersey, I blog more about mental health. It’s a topic passionate to me.  Since May is mental health month, it’s the perfect time to talk more about it.

It’s no secret the pandemic has affected people’s mental health. Over a year of lockdowns and not seeing friends is hard! Now, as things are opening up, it feels “weird” to see friends and family.

Awareness about the importance of mental health is the first way to end the stigma. Like any chronic disease, it’s important to talk openly because mental health disorders live and grow in silence.

I’ve blogged openly and honestly about my anxiety and depression throughout the years. Everyone has a different experience, but sharing your own story can help others feel as though they are not alone.

may is mental health month

Did you know May is Mental Health Awareness Month?

By sharing our stories and educating others, we can raise awareness and help spread the word about the importance of mental health.  Plus, the more people that talk about mental health, the easier it is to end the stigma. Chronic mental health diseases such as anxiety and depression are no easier or worse than physical diseases.

There is no shame in getting therapy. You’ll be surprised to learn how many people do!

How Can You Find a Therapist or Resources?

If you’re looking for mental health resources, Mental Health America is a great place to start. Mental Health America helps support and educate the public through media and local events.

As always, this blog isn’t intended for medical advice, and there is no substitute for seeing a doctor, therapist, or medical professional. 

A Few Mental Health Facts (Taken from the National Council)

  • 1 in 5 adults in America experiences a mental illness.
  • Nearly 1 in 25 (10 million) adults in America face the reality of living with serious mental illness.
  • One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by 24.
  • Approximately 10.2 million adults have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders.

Mental Health During in the Pandemic (stats from KKF):

  • 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder (up from 1 in 10)
  • 41% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder
  • 13% of adults reported new or increased substance use due to coronavirus-related stress
  • 11% of adults reported thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days

Unlike many diseases and disorders, mental health can be difficult or uncomfortable to discuss. Sometimes we don’t know a loved one or friend has a mental health issue until something drastic happens. Most mental health issues live in silence. The more we continue to talk about them, the more we can end the stigma.

How the Coronavirus and Social Distancing Has Contributed to More Mental Health Problems:

Everyone had problems before the pandemic hit. It is hard to remember that before the pandemic, our lives weren’t “perfect and normal”.

When the pandemic did hit, many of us were forced to deal with our own thoughts.

This is why we should and need to prioritize mental health for ourselves and our loved ones.

What Can Affect Our Mental Health?

  • Suppression: The stigma of mental health can lead to fear and judgment, which leads to suppressing feelings. We all have problems and it’s important to work through them.
  • Stress: Stress is stress. It can come from anywhere from personal life, work, running, or anything.
  • Social Isolation: For some, it’s been well over a year of social isolation. No one wants this forever. The feeling of loneliness is challenging for anyone.
  • Trauma: Trauma can come in many different forms: being a victim of a crime, neglect, military experience, or any serious incident.
  • Physical Health: Lack of Exercise, proper nutrition, and even sleep play a role in our mental health. Sleep is one of the most overlooked factors!
  • Social Media Overload: The last year has certainly played a role in how much we are online! Most of us have found ourselves on screens more. Take breaks from social media and allow yourself to be disconnected. Social media makes it easy to compare ourselves to others, but it also can cause you to be bogged down by the news. Don’t become obsessed with the news and take breaks when you need them.

Here Are a Few Ways You Can Help Your Mental Health:

Physical Health:
Since this a running blog, many people are already finding their routine with working out. Finding a routine that gets you out the door or gets some movement is essential for mental health. The key is finding something you like. If walking with your family is enjoyable, do that! If you like running or lifting weights, do that. Do what makes you happy.

Nutrition:
Nutrition plays a role both mentally and physically. It’s important to eat well, but it’s also important not to be strict. You don’t want to deprive yourself, but you do want to have a well-balanced diet to provide nutrition.

Sleep:
Sleep is the most underrated physical and mental aspect. Throw out social norms and if getting to bed at 8 pm works for you and your family, do so. If you take anything from this blog post, it’s getting more sleep. Something I prefer to do is turn off social media by 8 pm. I don’t answer texts; I don’t scroll through social media; I just relax.

Get Outside:
Fresh air and Vitamin D helps mental health in a big way. If the weather allows, make sure to spend some time outdoors each day. Even just 30 minutes a day can help your mental and physical health.

Reach Out:
Even if you aren’t able to see relatives and friends in person, make sure to reach out. Staying connected digitally is easier than ever. Know the signs and reach out if you or a loved one needs help.

With many people social distancing alone, it’s more important than ever to maintain contact with loved ones. You never know who is living with a mental illness. No one should suffer alone. If you find yourself uncomfortable talking about your mental health, find someone who makes you feel comfortable.

Remember, no one’s life is perfect, and we all have things we are dealing with. Many therapists are doing virtual meetings.  It’s okay to seek help.

Ask for Help:
Finding the right therapist for you can be tricky. Like a running shoe or coach, there is no best therapist for everyone. Finding someone that meshes well with your personality can take time, but having an unbiased person to help work through your feelings and emotions is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

If you don’t know where to start, here are a few places to start: 

How Can You Support a Friend Going Through a Mental Health Problem?

If you suspect or notice a friend going through mental health issues, don’t be afraid to reach out.

  • Share your concerns: Instead of using “you phrases,” use “I phrases”. Like: I’ve noticed you’re [eating less, etc.]. Is everything okay?
  • Reach out to someone you trust
  • Offer support
  • Include your friend in your plans (zoom calls, etc.).
  • Avoid judgment: Mental health issues grow in silence. By judging someone, you’re more likely to cause them to withdraw even more.

There is more information on how to help a friend through a mental health issue here.

Finally, You Possess the Key to Your Own Happiness:

We are our biggest fans and supporters. No one has access to our thoughts 24-7 and we are all working through something.  The sooner we accept that we all process the power for our own change, the more we can develop and grow.

Just because May is “Mental Health Month” doesn’t mean this isn’t a critical topic every day of the year. Now more than ever, we need to take time to focus on our mental health.

Question for you: How are you working through your own mental health?