May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2024

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health is an important part of overall health and well-being, yet mental illness affects millions of people and their families nationwide. 

The term mental illness encompasses hundreds of conditions but the common factor is that the condition affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. It can deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others. If you have — or think you might have — a mental illness, the first thing you must know is that you are not alone. Mental health conditions are far more common than you think, mainly because people don’t like to, or are scared to, talk about them. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that in the U.S.:

1 in 5  adults experience mental illness each year

1 in 20 adults experience serious mental illness each year

1 in 6 youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-14

Diagnosing mental illness isn’t a straightforward science. Unlike diabetes or cancer, there is no medical test that can accurately diagnose mental illness. Each condition has its own set of unique symptoms, though symptoms often overlap or present differently for different people.

Take a Mental Health Test
Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. Mental Health America offers online screenings on their website. Click here to take a test.
After your mental health test, you will see information, resources, and tools to help you understand and improve your mental health.
Please note: Online screening tools are meant to be a quick snapshot of your mental health. If your results indicate you may be experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, consider sharing your results with someone. A mental health provider (such as a doctor or a therapist) can give you a full assessment and talk to you about options for how to feel better.

 

Knowing warning signs can help you understand if you need to speak to a professional. Once you begin working with a professional, accurately identifying symptoms is the first step in developing a treatment plan. The initial treatment often focuses on the most problematic symptoms. Treatment may evolve over time as the process of diagnosis continues.

Common symptoms of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. In fact, 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, the most obvious symptoms in children are behavioral. Symptoms may include:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Help is Here

If you are struggling with your mental health or are concerned about someone you love, the following organizations can help:

For Youth:

United Counseling Services (UCS)

Designed for children and young adults up to 22 years old in Bennington County experiencing behavioral and emotional challenges, UCS’ Community Behavioral Support (CBS) program is available from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and can be reached by calling 802-442-1700.

For Adults:

NAMI: The NAMI HelpLine is available Monday Through Friday, 10 A.M. – 10 P.M. ET. Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), text “HelpLine” to 62640 or email us at helpline@nami.org

UCS Emergency Services (UCS) 24/7 mental health crisis support for individuals of all ages within Bennington County can be reached by calling 802-442-5491

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: The 988 Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. Dial 988 to be connected at any hour of any day.

 

Rachel Muñoz, PMHNP, and Assistant Director of Medical and Emergency Services with United Counseling Services in Bennington

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