According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 adults in America are affected by mental health conditions each year; how in the HEALTH does that happen? In taking a holistic approach to maintaining our health, it is recommended that we become aware of the various aspects of mental health. There is much stigma associated with mental health and mental illness. We are not fully taking advantage of all resources available to us, and are often left feeling as though we have to deal with our emotions, thoughts, or illnesses alone. Days away from Mental Health Month, I wanted to give attention to a loaded topic that affects everyone.
Mental Health vs Mental Illness
Mental Health and Mental Illness are increasingly being used interchangeably; however, they have two separate meanings.
Mental Health: our overall well-being, encompasses the full spectrum of our thoughts and emotions – whether good or bad (EAP, 2016).
Mental Illness: a diagnosed disorder; the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, defines it as “a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning.”
Mental illness hits very close to home. Growing up, there was so much stigma associated with mental health – it was never discussed in detail. The uncertainty, shame, and lack of education were results of the stigma associated with mental illness in my family. From post traumatic stress disorder to schizophrenia, these diseases would sometimes have a strong effect on our daily lives. Insensitive terms were used to categorize certain people and thus added a negative connotation to the idea of therapy. Fast forward to present day, mental illnesses have been passed along from one generation to the next and there is still uncertainty on how to properly address mental health concerns.
Throughout life, I personally battled with fear, disappointments, rejection, and even depression. Engaging in my community, dwelling in my creative space and uplifting others were my remedies; the smile on someone else’s face was my cure. I never wanted anyone to feel the way I felt in my lowest moments, so I made it my goal sprinkle alittle sunshine everywhere I went. Not everyone knows how to channel their pain. Hurt people, can hurt people. Oddly enough, some people cannot properly process positivity because of their past experiences. In all transparency, at one point in my life I honestly cringed at the thought of someone giving me a hug or celebrating me. This came as a result of experiences from my past. While I was able to work through my issues and now live in a beautiful balance, I have been in close relation with and associated with many people (from all walks of life) who desperately need professional counseling to deal with harbored issues. I share these realities because they are common for the vast majority and the stigma associated with mental health makes it difficult for us to first, recognize our opportunities and secondly, seek any form of therapy.
This year, NAMI has decided to promote the theme “CureStigma” throughout all of their awareness events. Many local organizations are drawing awareness towards mental health by hosting events and carrying out varied initiatives. Myesha Good is a wife, political consultant, activist in her community along with being co-owner of PolitaCoach, LLC so she understands first-hand the importance of being mentally sound. Myesha is well aware of the devastating statistics so she wore green to draw awareness to mental health as an initiative of her sorority. A notable recognition – her sorority, specifically the Sigma Omega Omega Chapter was recognized yesterday as a community partner of NAMI!
Mental health legislation is given the least amount of attention but is of the greatest concern. Every decision a person makes stems from their mental state. There is a direct correlation between mental health and several other topics to include crime, drop out rates and physical health. Mental Health deserves national attention. The state of America is dependent upon the overall mental health of its citizens. Click below for some recent updates.
Healthcare and Public Health
CDC reports that in the health care and the public health arena, more emphasis and resources have been devoted to screening, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness than mental health. Little has been done to protect the mental health of those free of mental illness. Researchers suggest that there are indicators of mental health, representing three domains.These include the following:
such as perceived life satisfaction, happiness, cheerfulness, peacefulness.
such as self-acceptance, personal growth including openness to new experiences, optimism, hopefulness, purpose in life, control of one’s environment, spirituality, self-direction, and positive relationships.
social acceptance, beliefs in the potential of people and society as a whole, personal self-worth and usefulness to society, sense of community.
Scholarly research suggests that more mentally ill people are turning to social media for peer-to-peer support. This, in turn can draw awareness to mental health and essentially lead to a large number of mentally ill people getting the support they need to seek intervention.
Social media provides a platform for expression of one’s mental state. While some people are using social media to seek encouragement and support, I have witnessed social media being used as an outlet to express troubling thoughts or emotions. It can be viewed as “a cry for help” or taken as a negative form of expression. Social media posts can communicate a lot about a person. I recently came across a public post made by an associate from undergrad that welcomed people to have open dialogue about their mental health state; she even mentioned that her message box was open for comments as well – the post made my heart smile. End The Stigma
My close friends and I often have candid conversations about our mental state. Just yesterday a friend shared that she signed up for therapy, her decision in part was strongly influenced by another friend who is currently in therapy. Ultimately, the majority of us agree that therapy is beneficial for everyone! Changes in life or a traumatic experience can easily alter our mental state. Prevention and maintenance adds to the quality of life in all areas of health.
The support of friends and family is always appreciated. In an effort to maintain a healthy relationship, I encourage you to be mindful of how much you allow people to vent with you because sometimes it can be draining. This could result in them feeling as though you are not giving them the support or attention they need. People naturally take on their loved ones emotions; therefore, transferring too much negative energy is not healthy for either party. However, its extremely important to create balance and effectively communicate. Sometimes people just need someone to “show up”.
Just as we aim to eat healthier and exercise more to maintain our physical well-being, or pray more to maintain our spiritual well-being, we need to give attention to our mental well-being by strongly considering counseling. This is the holistic approach to maintaining optimal health. For those employed, your employers may offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) – FREE counseling sessions. Contact your HR Center for more information. Parents, seek counseling for your children or family. Couples (married or unmarried), seek relationship counseling.
We Climb Counseling and Consulting is a notable counseling firm that offers a “meet you were you are” approach to their outreach.
Do not delay your journey to becoming an overall healthier you, book your appointment TODAY!
If you suffer from mental illness, do not be shamed – you are not alone. Feel free to share your story with NAMI! I welcome your comments below.