How is your mental health?

Feeling unbalanced? Ever consider your mental health well-being?

Mental health awareness campaigns and messages are becoming more prevalent in media. There are many different definitions of mental health. Some emphasize positive well-being; others define it as the absence of problems. The World Health Organization’s definition says, “Mental health can be conceptualized as a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.” Native American’s Web of Life defines health very similarly but include that health is as a continuum, a cycle connected to earth, a never ending process that has peaks and valleys or is sometimes balanced and sometimes unbalanced.

Feeling unbalanced for a long period of time can be a very scary and painful. Often people retreat due to feeling fearful or ashamed. Slang terms people sometimes use to describe mental health issues are hurtful. Terms like crazy, psycho, mad, loony, nuts, cracked-up or whack-o do not provide information on what a person is really experiencing and are debilitating to their intervention, treatment and recovery. No one wants a long-term or terminal medical diagnosis of any kind. However, people who receive a mental/neurological diagnosis usually don’t receive the same type of empathy as someone who receives a physical diagnosis. What I found out at a Mental Health First Aid training is that neuropsychiatric disorders (including mental, behavioral and neurological disorders) are the leading cause of disability in the United States. I thought it was cardiovascular diseases, which came in as the second leading cause. This statistic tells me we have much work to do to educate people about mental health.

There are a wide range of interventions for preventing mental health problems and for helping people with mental disorders. There are many different types of treatment and supports. Those people who can help are primary care providers, mental health professionals, peer support specialist and, most importantly, family and friends. The support that family, friends and colleagues can provide are pivotal in a person’s willingness to seek help. Early intervention is important in preventing problems in becoming more serious and reduce likelihood of secondary effects such as job loss, school drop-out, relationship break-ups, and drug and alcohol problems.

If you are not comfortable talking about mental health and want to learn more of how to identify signals of distress consider taking the Mental Health First Aid training in your community. The Mental Health America website provides information on mental health, getting help and taking action. If you want to improve your social and/or emotional health and well-being, consider registering for Michigan State University Extension’s RELAX: Alternatives to Anger or Stress Less with Mindfulness series.

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