Although millions of Americans suffer from mental illnesses, there is still a lack of public knowledge about mental health and limited access to resources for those who need help. Fortunately May is Mental Health Month, so it’s the perfect time to break misunderstandings about mental health and recognize how to care for your mental wellbeing. This year’s Mental Health Month is focused on breaking stigmas, which can shame individuals away from appropriate treatments or cause them to fear judgment when talking about mental illness. The truth is that it’s important to discuss mental health with an open mind, so continue reading to get a start on the conversation.
Defining Mental Health
Mental health can be a nebulous concept because it not only deals with the physical structure and function of the brain, but also the mind—thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all discussed under the umbrella of mental health as they relate to cognitive and emotional functions. However, just because mental health goes beyond the physical brain and body, it’s no less important than any other aspect of your health. If you are struggling with a mental illness, you may not only have a limited capacity to enjoy life, but you may also suffer from physical symptoms as a direct result of a mental illness or subject yourself to riskier behaviors that could put you in harm’s way.
Common Mental Health Misconceptions
We’ve already touched on some common misconceptions surrounding mental health, but it’s important to discuss some specific misunderstandings to end the damage they cause.
• Myth: Mental illness is a weakness. Being diagnosed with any mental illness is not a sign of mental weakness. Like physical illnesses, there are many potential causes for mental illness, and there’s a complex set of potential risk factors that influence these illnesses.
• Myth: Mental illnesses are only seen in certain populations. Mental illness does not discriminate, and anyone can suffer from a mental health disorder, regardless of age, income, or background. One huge misconception people have is that mental illness only affects adults, when, in fact, more than 1 in 20 children and teens have anxiety or depression.
• Myth: Mental illness isn’t that common. About 20% of Americans will experience mental health problems each year, so if you are struggling with a mental health problem, you are not alone. Knowing that mental health issues are relatively common may encourage you to get help.
• Myth: Some mental health problems are beyond helping. Mental health does require a different and often more dynamic treatment approach than many physical health problems, but issues are often treatable or manageable. Many people can find the right balance of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes to live with certain conditions or overcome them entirely.
When to Seek Mental Help
One of the most important reasons to open up the discussion about mental health is to create an atmosphere where it feels safe to seek help. If you suspect that you or a loved one has a mental illness, you shouldn’t wait to talk to your doctor or even schedule a therapy session. The signs may not always be the same, but there are some clear indicators that you need to dedicate attention to your mental health:
- Frequent mood swings
- More frequent negative thoughts
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep
- Social withdrawal
- Thoughts of suicide
- Inclination toward destructive or high-risk behavior
- Sense of fear or terror
- Feeling of loss of control over thoughts and feelings
Here at MeMD, we believe that everyone should have access to affordable mental healthcare, which is why we provide therapy services by web, phone, or the MeMD app. You can schedule an appointment any time with a licensed professional counselor, family therapist, or licensed clinical social worker.