• 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

  • other unexplained aches and pains

may actually be signs of mental health issues instead of only a physical issue.


Again, signs and symptoms of mental health issues come in nearly unlimited forms. But above all, they are a normal part of life. We say this to remind you that if you are struggling with mental health you are not alone.




ISN’T MENTAL ILLNESS AND POOR MENTAL HEALTH JUST THE SAME THING?


Mental health and mental illness are definitely not the same thing. In fact, there is a huge difference between the two.


A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of good mental health: good emotional, psychological, and social well-being.


So what’s the difference? This:


Mental illness is like having a physical disease such as diabetes, where poor mental health is like being physically sick such as having pneumonia.


To be clear, this metaphor is simply a picture to help us understand the differences. Mental illness and having diabetes are not one-to-one the same thing. However, the two are similar.


(And also to be clear, no one with a mental illness should be shamed. Many, many people have mental illness, so if you have a mental illness, you are not alone and should not be ashamed!)


Mental illness refers to conditions that affect the biological mechanisms that create a person’s

  • thoughts,

  • feelings,

  • moods, and/or

  • behaviors.


There are many different mental illnesses; and each one has its own symptoms and each one impacts peoples’ lives in different ways.


Where mental illness is the mechanics, mental health is the output. Mental health reflects our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health is:

  • Your actual thoughts/inner voice/core beliefs,

  • Your ability to process and understand your feelings/emotions, and

  • Your behaviors/decisions/actions that form how you interact with others, handle problems, and make decisions.


It’s possible to have poor mental health (poor output) but no mental illness (no misfiring machine). Likewise, it’s entirely possible to have good mental health even with a diagnosis of a mental illness.


With the right support and tools, anyone can live well—however they define well—and find meaning, contribute to their communities, and work towards their goals.




FINDING A COMMUNITY IS ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO PREVENT AND TO HEAL POOR MENTAL HEALTH


Involving yourself in a community can offer meaning and purpose to everyday life and can have a strong, positive effect on your mental health.


Communities form around different aspects of our lives, so to find a community, look to the things you enjoy in life. For instance, communities form around people's shared hobbies, locations, life experiences, backgrounds, or beliefs.


So, for example, if you look at one of your favorite hobbies, you may find a community there. You may find a group in your area that shares your interest and activity.


Also, you can try new activities to find community. There are many activities out there that can help you increase your sense of belonging like:

  • volunteering,

  • joining a dance or workout class,

  • learning a new language,

  • painting or drawing, and

  • many more.


I know it can be scary and overwhelming to try new things when you’re struggling with mental health, but try to push through the fear. When you do, you can find community.


Being a part of a community leads to feeling valued and, eventually, to feeling fully connected to others. And feeling valued and connected can prevent and reduce mental health issues like feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, and more.




RESOURCES FOR MENTAL HEALTH

If you'd like to read more about mental health, check out these articles:


If you have any signs or symptoms of a mental illness or mental health issues, please, seek services with your primary healthcare provider or, if you have one, your mental health specialist.


If you have suicidal thoughts, please contact -

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)


Also, please, reach out to a close friend or loved one, and to other supportive services in your area such as non-profit organizations and faith communities.


Also, if you are affected by domestic abuse and struggle with a mental health problem, please reach out to us -

Defy Domestic Abuse Beloit:

24hr hotline: 1-608-362-1083


We are here to help! You are not alone.


Though it may be scary at first, talking about mental health can give you freedom. Talking about it may free you to seek help, to find support, and to move toward your full potential.


Talking about it can help you move toward your full emotional, psychological, and social well-being.


It can help you move from heart-struck to heart-strong.



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AND IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS STRUGGLING WITH DOMESTIC ABUSE, PLEASE:  call us: 

(608)-365-1119 *free, confidential, and 24hrs/7days/365yr *We take every COVID precaution such as social distancing, face masks, and zero contact when applicable. 



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