May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

All across the United States, governors and mayors are making declarations for Mental Health Awareness Month, which takes place during the month of May. While most people recognize the importance of achieving and maintaining physical health, there is a dearth of resources and recognition for mental health. Many private insurers don't offer any coverage for mental health. Those that do often offer inadequate coverage. For example, they may limit counseling sessions or not pay for certain types of outpatient treatment. Read on to learn how to know when it's time to seek help and what types of health may be available in a community.

Why Mental Health Is Important

At least 50% of Americans will experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime. Depression is the most common mental health disorder, followed by anxiety disorders and drug and alcohol addiction. There is more to depression or anxiety than feeling sad or worrying about a big test or a job interview. The symptoms of these conditions affect every aspect of a person's life. They also affect the person's coworkers, family, friends and community. If a person has a mental health disorder, they may not be able to take care of their physical health. They may be unable to hold a job, pay their bills or do what is generally expected of them by society. Just like flight attendants remind people to administer their own oxygen mask before helping their neighbor, it's critical that a person take charge of their mental health before they can help others in any part of life.

Signs That It's Time to Seek Mental Health Help

People of any age may suffer from a mental health disorder. Children, teens, adults and the elderly can all experience a mental illness or disorder. Mental health problems know no economic, racial, gender, educational or professional boundaries. There are some risk factors that make a person more prone to having a mental health disorder, such as a family history, personal trauma or a significant loss. There are many signs that it's time to seek mental health help, including

-Drop in academic or work performance
-Loss of interest in favorite activities
-Change in appetite
-Significant increase or decrease in sleep quality or quantity
-Rapid or large mood swings
-Acting out or bending rules in a person who rarely did this before
-Drug or alcohol abuse
-Change in sexual behaviors

Warning Signs of a Mental Health Crisis

Most mental health problems are mild to moderate in intensity, and the symptoms can be lessened with recognition and treatment. However, some people may have a sudden or severe onset of mental health symptoms. A person who has any of the following needs urgent or emergency mental health care:

-Thoughts of self-harm
-Plans to commit suicide
-Giving away prized possessions
-Sudden euphoric mood because they have plans to die
-Thoughts or plans to harm others
-Relapse of drug or alcohol abuse

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Impacted Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of people to experience isolation. Their routines of going to work or school were upended. People who were used to going out to socialize with friends at bars or restaurants had their plans cut off for months. Families were discouraged from spending time with extended family members who weren't a part of their household. People even had to switch to telehealth visits for mental health and many medical services, so they may not have even had simple interactions with their healthcare providers. The drastic and sudden reduction in the ability to socialize, even within a small group setting, caused many people to experience loneliness, depression, boredom, frustration, a loss of self-confidence and self-worth and an increase in anxiety, worry and stress.

Outpatient Resources for Mental Health

When a mental health problem is identified and diagnosed in its early stages, treatment is highly successful. There are many types of outpatient treatment that work for different mental health conditions. For example, exposure therapy helps with phobias. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people work through generalized anxiety disorder and depression. Many people benefit from medications that treat the brain chemistry problems related to anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Inpatient Care for Mental Health Emergencies

Some people need intensive treatment for mental health disorders, especially if they're at immediate risk of self-harm or harming someone else. Inpatient mental health treatment typically includes a combination of individual and group therapy, medications, electro-convulsive therapy and more.

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