May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and the goal is to reduce stigmas surrounding those living with mental health conditions. Approximately 44 million Americans a year battle mental illness, and most families are underprepared for a loved one’s diagnosis.
A condition that affects a person’s mood, behavior, or thinking is classified as a mental illness, especially when it impacts their daily routine and how they relate to others. The development of mental health conditions can typically be traced back to environment, lifestyle, or genetics. Traumatic events and living with constant stress are also factors.
It is important to understand that while mental health conditions are not popular talking points, these conditions are relatively common in the United States. 1 in 5 U.S. adults and 1 in 6 U.S. children, aged 6-17, experience a mental illness each year.
Mental Health Conditions
While there are nearly 300 documented mental health disorders, listed below are some of the more common conditions you or your loved ones may encounter:
- Anxiety disorders – overwhelming and constant anxiety that disrupts daily life.
- Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) – disorganization, inability to focus, and hyperactive impulses are common symptoms of this developmental disorder.
- Bipolar disorder –a person’s energy, mood, and ability to think clearly are affected on a consistent basis. Those with bipolar disorder experience extremely high and low moods.
- Depression – affects and disrupts psychological functioning like memory, identity, emotion, and more.
- Eating disorders – the purposeful changing of food consumption, which affects health and behaviors.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder – impacts physiological and psychological responses as a result of trauma.
How to Cope
Those who live in close proximity to mental illness find their lives to be changed by it. Finding fruitful coping strategies benefits all parties involved.
Acceptance. Before a loved one receives an official diagnosis, it is important to recognize the warning signs and accept them, as avoiding or ignoring them prevents early treatment. After diagnosis, it is important to accept there will be new norms. Thorough research should be conducted to glean a more comprehensive understanding and to provide meaningful support.
Support network. Building a group that understands an illness and its effect can remove burdens from the person with the illness. Connecting with people who have similar life experiences can introduce new coping strategies and provide additional emotional support. There is a strength in not having to manage alone.
Counsel. There is a finite amount of support the average person can provide another. Therapy can be a useful tool for family members and those with mental illness in order to bridge education gaps and provide helpful paths forward.
Breaks. Burnout is a common outcome of overcommitment and stress. Due to this, family members, caregivers, and those with a mental illness all occasionally need time to themselves. There should be no guilt associated with re-energizing or taking time to self-care. As a reminder to focus on self-care, print and utilize this checklist.
Those with mental illness and their loved ones are negatively affected by stigmas and inaccurate stereotypes. These illnesses require open dialogues in order for people to receive the help and support they require.
If you have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), explore the services and resources surrounding mental health and wellness. For supplemental information on Mental Health Awareness Month, please visit the sites below:
- National Today
- Anxiety & Depression Association of America
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
If you have any questions, please contact your dedicated Creative Benefits, Inc. team member.