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With a big initiative to provide education and resources to improve the physical health of more people around the world, the mental health of our society cannot be overlooked in achieving this goal. World Mental Health Day, which falls within Mental Illness Awareness Week, is a dedicated day that is honored globally once a year. While mental illness must be acknowledged and supported 365 days of the year, World Mental Health Day is a dedicated time during which the world comes together to raise awareness, increase support, and decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness. Each year Mental Illness Awareness week focuses on a specific theme, and the theme for 2022 is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’. In doing so, the health and wellness of our society as a whole can be substantially improved. Mental Illness Awareness week runs from October 2nd through October 6th this year. Several important days during this week include the following:
Tuesday, October 4th – National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding
Thursday, October 6th – National Depression Screening Day
Monday, October 10 – World Mental Health Day
Everyone has mental health. It’s the way we feel inside, good or bad, to include our emotions, feelings, mood and more. While the emphasis of health is usually placed on the physical, mental health has an incredible impact on what we are able to do, ranging from our ability to socialize, go to work, provide for others, and take care of ourselves. It allows us to participate in and contribute to society. Similarly, our mental health can be impacted by countless things. Our work situation, home life, physical health, friends and family, financial state, even our genetics and the way we were raised, or an event that happened many years ago can play a role in determining the state of our mental health. Good mental health supports the way we work, learn, grow and interact with others. When our mental health is good, we are more resilient to the inevitable stresses of life. Even in times of good mental health come moments of sadness, despair, and struggle. These moments are a normal part of life and can even teach us how to overcome things in the future. However, sometimes these situations are too much for us to tackle on our own, and the impact they have on our mental health requires support. No one is too strong or too brave to be immune from these life events. It is better to reach out sooner rather than later when you feel like sadness, despair or negativity are consuming your days and preventing you from living your life so that you can work to restore your mental health.
Anyone, from any age group, race, gender, background or belief system can suffer from mental illness. Sometimes it can be challenging to differentiate between a bad day or a tough month from a mental illness, as there is no official test that can definitively tell us what is happening. Whatever you are feeling though is valid and could ultimately lead to more serious mental health consequences. Your thoughts and feelings should be acknowledged and supported and evaluated by a professional. Varying degrees of mental illness will require varying levels of support and treatment. Consider if you have noticed any of the following signs or symptoms listed below. This list is not comprehensive but does address many of the signs and symptoms that occur for some of the major mental illnesses. If you experience any of these things regularly or consistently, or notice a loved one or friend who may be experiencing them, reach out to a professional.
– Excessive worrying or fear
– Feeling excessively sad or low
– Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
– Extreme mood changes
– 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
– 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
The impact that mental health and mental illness have on our society is huge. Consistently, research shows that individuals with mental illness have a shorter lifespan.1 in every 20 adults experience serious mental illness every year, yet only two thirds of those individuals receive treatment. Some of the major mental illnesses that individuals are struggling with in order of prevalence are anxiety disorders, major depressive episodes, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and schizophrenia. As millions of individuals across the globe are directly impacted by a mental illness of their own, just as many are indirectly impacted as they witness a loved one, a friend, a coworker or a neighbor struggling with a mental illness. The impact of mental illness goes beyond the individual it is affecting to interfere with the lives of many around them. Therefore, it cannot be on the individuals alone who struggle with mental illness directly to support and treat themselves. Our communities must band together to support those who need awareness raised and treatments provided.
The stigma that mental illness is a weakness or can be overcome by mental toughness leads to many individuals trying to keep their struggles quiet, ignoring their feelings, or resisting help, which only makes things much worse. Like any physical ailment or chronic illness, mental health must be addressed and treated in order to make recovery possible. This is only one of the many stigmas surrounding mental health. Others include societal stigmas such as viewing individuals with mental illness as violent, dangerous or crazy. Self-stigma, or the beliefs held by individuals with mental illness, can lead to lack of reporting or seeking out treatment out of shame or due to fear of society’s response. In order to decrease societal and self-stigma surrounding mental illness, we must normalize the reality of mental illness and continue to have conversations about it. Increasing discussions and public awareness, as well as making support more accessible to everyone, is crucial in order to increase mental illness reporting and mental illness treatment.
You can help to decrease stigma and raise awareness in your own community! Show your support this year by talking to friends, family members and coworkers about Mental Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day. Post about it on your social media, advocate for improving treatment access for mental illness, and continue to educate yourself on the topics of mental health. Together, we can better support our community!
Image 1 – https://sdgresources.relx.com/special-issues/world-mental-health-day-2021-0
Image 2 – https://www.siouxcenterhealth.org/latest-news-and-blog/tag/mental-illness-awareness-week/
American Psychiatric Association – https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-discrimination
National Alliance on Mental Illness – https://www.nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/mental-illness-awareness-week
Rethink Mental Illness – https://www.rethink.org/get-involved/awareness-days-and-events/world-mental-health-day/
Mental Health Foundation – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/world-mental-health-day