Mental health comes and goes in stages, like many diseases. As stages progress, symptoms grow worse. We often think of mental health as something like a light switch. A person is either mentally healthy or they are not. Mental health is more of a scale than it is a simple yes or no. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 26% of Americans age 18 and older are living with a mental health disorder in any given year, and 46% will have a mental health disorder over the course of their lifetime.
Many people keep themselves so busy they don’t give their minds and bodies time to relax and recover when they start to feel anxious, stressed, or depressed. Many others are embarrassed to seek out help because they think there is something “wrong” with them as a person. These mentalities are dangerous because, just like the body, when our minds become stressed, tired, or sick, the only way we can recover is through rest and receiving the proper medical attention.
But, when mental health problems go untreated, they can become so severe that the person suffering can no longer function and they become a danger to themselves and others. It’s what Mental Health America has termed stage 4 of a mental disorder.
Taking “B4Stage4” to Heart
May is mental health month and the focus for this year is learning to address mental health before stage four. This year’s theme of”B4Stage4″ comes with good reason. Mental Health America hopes to change perceptions of mental health challenges and help people understand how mental health problems actually work. This will help people get treatment early, before they reach a critical level, when symptoms are much more severe and recovery is a much longer process. It’s much easier to correct a course early than fix a problem later on.
On March 16th, Mental Health America published a toolkit that includes helpful tips and ways you can raise awareness about mental health. You can find out more here.
Changing Our Perceptions
Mental health problems do not reflect on the strength or worth of a person. Like our physical bodies, our minds can become worn down by lack of sleep or day to day stress. Or, sometimes illness can come on suddenly, caused by things we have no control over like genetics, health, environment, or traumatic experiences.
As with those who have physical health problems, those with mental health problems need support and understanding from those who surround them. They are experiencing an intense challenge–one many of us will face in our lifetime.
It’s also important for us to understand that mental health problems can begin at any age. In fact, most mental health disorders begin in the teenage and young adult years, not with old age.
For people who suffer from mental health problems, it’s important to know you are not alone. Nearly half of all Americans will experience a diagnosable mental health condition in their lifetime. But, there are resources available to help you regain control and find joy again in your life. Don’t be afraid to speak up, get the help you need, and reach out to others who may be struggling. Check out some of the local resources available in Salt Lake and Utah County.
The only way we will change our perceptions of mental health disorders is by understanding how mental health impacts those nearest us, as well as our own day to day lives.
What to Watch For
Since mental health problems affect so many of us, it is important to know the warning signs to watch for in those experiencing mental health issues. The American Psychiatric Association has published this list of behaviors to watch for:
- Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others.
- An unusual drop in functioning, especially at school or work, such as quitting sports, failing in school, or difficulty performing familiar tasks.
- Problems with concentration, memory, or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.
- Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations.
- Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity; apathy.
- A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality.
- Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult.
- Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.
- Uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.
- Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or deterioration in personal hygiene.
- Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or “mood swings.”
We can all break out of our “stage 4” mindset and address mental problems at their first onset.
We should remember that no one is immune to mental health problems, despite their age, gender, and background. But, if we do our part to watch for the warning signs, we can help put those who are in danger on a better, healthier path.
If you or someone close to you struggles with a mental health challenge, there may be an opportunity to receive benefits in the form of Social Security disability. Please call and talk with us if you have any questions. You can talk with us over the phone at (801)890-1030 or visit our home page where you can fill out a request for an in-person, free consultation with one of our attorneys.