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  • Mandy Chitwood

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Break the stigma | Mental health awareness month 2021


Just like good physical health, good mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. And just like anyone at any age could trip and fall and break a bone, a person’s mental health can be injured at any stage of their life.


This is why it’s so crucial for us to remove our society’s stigma around mental health issues.


Imagine being made fun of for going to the doctor. Imagine being belittled, being given a side-eye and under-the-breath comments just for going to the hospital - after being in a car accident.


Well, for those struggling with their mental health, that imagined scenario is what it’s like for them in real life.


And, often, this social stigma is so strong it prevents individuals from seeking help, from gaining healing, and from living their full potential.


But, just like everyone deserves good physical health, everyone deserves good mental health and quality support in healing from trauma. So know that, if you’re facing a mental health challenge, you are not alone! Here’s how you can find support with your mental health.




WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?

“Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but, importantly, you are not the rain.”
-MATT HAIG

Mental health is your network of inner-thoughts that guides your emotional, psychological, and social well-being.


Mental health affects:

  • how you think,

  • how you feel, and

  • how you function in society.


It also determines how you handle stressful situations, connect with others, and make life choices.




HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL HEALTH?


People who struggle with mental health experience difficulties in at least one of these three domains:

  • emotional well-being,

  • psychological well-being, and

  • social well-being.


For example, a person struggling with mental health may experience:

  • mood instability (emotional),

  • disorganized thinking (psychological), and

  • unwanted behaviors (social).




ARE SOME PEOPLE AT HIGHER RISK THAN OTHERS FOR MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES?


Yes.


See, anyone may experience trauma at some point during their life. But, just like having a pre-existing condition that affects your physical health, many people live with conditions that predispose them to experiencing trauma more often than others and/or experiencing greater degrees of trauma than others.


Here are just a few common risk factors that are associated with increased mental health problems:

  • poverty,

  • chronic stress,

  • emotional abuse,

  • isolation,

  • stressful life events,

  • poor nutrition,

  • substance abuse,

  • medical illness.


Several of these risk factors are things that nearly every single person goes through at some point in their life. Thus, instead of seeing people struggling with mental health as a minority, we should see them as they really are: a majority.


We say this to empower and support you. See, in real life, mental health problems are very common.


So, if you struggle with mental health, please don’t feel ashamed! You are not alone; and even though people with mental health problems struggle, there’s always hope to get better (and you may even be able to recover completely!).




HOW CAN I TELL IF I MIGHT HAVE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES?


Just like it’s important to find the early warning signs of physical issues, it’s important to identify the early warning signs of mental health issues. Finding these initial signs has the potential to decrease the severity of any mental health problem.


Unfortunately, there’s no universal, one-size-fits-all list of mental health warning signs and symptoms.


According to Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of mental illness and poor mental health vary depending on the disorder, circumstances, and life-factors.


Though we cannot give you an exhaustive list of things to watch for, we can give you some of the most common signs and symptoms. (If you identify with one or more of the items below, please reach out to a professional mental therapy provider to learn more.)


Here’s some common examples of mental health warning signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling sad or down uninterrupted for several weeks;

  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate;

  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt;

  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows;

  • Withdrawal from friends and activities;

  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping;

  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations;

  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress;

  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people;

  • Problems with alcohol or drug use;

  • Major changes in eating habits;

  • Sex drive changes such as a rapid increase or decrease;

  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence;

  • Suicidal thinking.


Also, (and surprising to many people) symptoms of mental health issues may appear as physical problems. For instance:

  • stomach pain,

  • back pain,

  • headaches, or