Since the start of the pandemic, more and more people are talking about mental health. An increasing number are starting to see it for what it is: one important component of your overall health and well-being, just like your physical health. But mental health conditions, resources, and conversations can still feel complicated and out of reach. May is Mental Health Month so it’s a great time to learn the basics about your mental health.
Are there common warning signs for mental health conditions or crises? Specific factors that can lead to those conditions or crises? What resources are out there – and how do I know if they’re right for me? Many people are learning about mental health topics for the first time. Having a basic understanding of the topic can help you be more informed if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health condition or crisis.
Around half of the people in the US will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life, so everyone should know what to look out for. Everyone should have the support needed to thrive. Communities that have been historically and currently oppressed face a deeper mental health burden because of the added impact of trauma, oppression, and harm.
There is often no single cause for a mental health condition. Instead, there are many possible risk factors that can influence how likely a person is to experience mental illness or how serious the symptoms may be. Some risk factors include trauma (a one-time event or ongoing); your environment and how it impacts your health and quality of life (also known as social determinants of health like financial stability and health care access); genetics; brain chemistry; and lifestyle such as sleep habits.
Understanding risk factors for a mental health condition can be more difficult when it’s your own mental health. Take time to ask yourself about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to see if something you’re experiencing is part of a pattern that may be caused by a mental health condition. Here are some questions to get you started:
• Have things that used to feel easy started feeling difficult?
• Does the idea of doing daily tasks like making your bed feel really hard?
• Have you lost interest in activities and hobbies you used to enjoy?
• Do you feel irritated, possibly to the point of lashing out at people you care about?
Our society focuses much more on physical health than mental health, but both are equally important. If you are concerned about your mental health, there are options available. You are not alone – help is out there, and recovery is possible. It may be hard to talk about your concerns, but simply acknowledging to yourself that you’re struggling is a big step.
Take a screen at www.mhalc.org to better understand what you are experiencing and get helpful resources. After that, consider talking to someone you trust about your results, and seek out a professional to find the support you need. While you may not need this information today, knowing the basics about mental health will mean you’re prepared if you ever need it. For more ideas, check out the Mental Health Month toolbox on our website.
Penny Sitler is Executive Director of Mental Health America of Licking County.