Mental Health Awareness Month
This month is Mental Health Awareness Month! Since 1949, our partner, Mental Health America has been leading the country in observing May as Mental Health Awareness Month by reaching millions of people through media, local events and screenings. Mental health affects everyone, as we all have times when we feel down, stressed or frightened. Most of the time those feelings pass, but sometimes they develop into a more serious problem. The focus for this year’s event is: animal companionship, spirituality, humor, work-life balance and recreation and social connections, as a way to boost mental health and general wellness.
- The most common mental health disorders in adolescents by lifetime prevalence are anxiety (31.9%), behavior (19.1%), and mood (14.3%).
- Between 13% and 20% of children in the US have a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder
- 1% of children aged 3-17 years have diagnosed anxiety and 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years have diagnosed depression
- More than 90% of people who die by suicide show symptoms of a mental health condition
A healthy lifestyle can help prevent the onset or worsening of mental health conditions, as well as chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. For those dealing with a chronic health condition and for those who care for them, it is important to focus on good mental health. Dealing with both physical health and mental health concerns can be daunting, but focusing on both is critically important in achieving overall wellness. Living a healthy lifestyle may not be easy but can be achieved by gradually making small changes and building on those successes. By finding the balance between the ups and downs life has to offer and physical and mental health, the path towards focusing the body and mind will be clearer.
What can you do?
Find a reason to laugh! Finding the humor in the circumstances of life can lift moods and help people to better deal with and overcome difficult experiences. When we laugh the of stress hormones in our bodies decrease and endorphins (the body’s natural pain blockers) are released. This creates a stronger immune system and improves moods and anxiety relief. To incorporate humor into your life, try listing three funny things that have happened to you each day or incorporate funny things into your environment, such as a goofy photo, a page a day calendar, or a mug with a witty saying or cartoon.
Get an animal companion! The company of animals – whether a pet or a service animal – can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to recover from illnesses. 80% of households with pets believe that pets bring them happiness and emotional support. Pet ownership can also improve cardiovascular health and physical activity, decrease stress and lower blood pressure and reduce loneliness, which increases the risk of developing many chronic health conditions. Service dogs can also make a world of difference! Veterans with PTSD reported decreases in depression, social isolation, anxiety and alcohol abuse, while also reporting improved sleep and better coping with flashbacks.
Take care of your soul! Regardless of whether you rely on meditation, yoga or religion, caring for your soul is an important part of taking care of yourself that can improve physical and mental health. Spiritual practices like meditation are linked to increased levels of feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and endorphins; and decreased levels of cortisol and noradrenaline, which are associated with stress. A study found that people who attended religious services monthly showed a 22% lower risk of depression.