Mental Health Awareness Month was started in the United States in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization (then known as the National Association for Mental Health). Its purpose is to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, the realities of living with these conditions, and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness. It also aims to draw attention to suicide, which can be precipitated by some mental illnesses.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and contributes to our overall physical health. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
What is mental illness?
Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be occasional or long-lasting and affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.
What causes mental illness?
A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple overlapping causes. Genetics, environment, and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits and basic brain structure may also play a role.
Why is mental health important for overall health?
Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. Mental illness, especially depression, increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk of mental illness.
Can your mental health change over time?
Yes, it’s important to remember that a person’s mental health can change over time, depending on many factors. When the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health could be impacted. For example, if someone is working long hours, caring for an ill relative or experiencing economic hardship they may experience poor mental health.
How common are mental illnesses?
Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.
More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
- 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
- 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
- 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.
Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Learning all you can about mental health is an important first step. One of the easiest tools anyone can use is taking a mental health screening when they need answers. It’s a quick, free, and private way for people to assess their mental health and recognize signs of mental health problems. To check in on your own mental health, you can take a free, anonymous mental health screening at www.bedfordma.gov/youth under “screenings.”
Town Social Workers are available to help residents navigate through difficult situations. If you are a Bedford resident who is 60 or older please contact Social Worker Danika Castle in the Council on Aging at 781-275-6825 and if you are a resident under the age of 60 you can contact Social Worker Christopher Bang in the Youth and Family Services Department at 781-918-4328.
Outpatient Therapy is currently available via tele-health. Bedford residents are not required to pay a co-pay and lack of insurance is not a barrier to services. Any Bedford resident seeking mental health counseling or therapy services can contact one of the Social Workers or reach out to Eliot Community Human Services directly at 978-369-1113.
Advocates Psychiatric Emergency Service team is always available to offer skilled, compassionate support and connections to resources and services during difficult times. If you are experiencing a mental health or emotional crisis, please call (800) 640-5432 to speak to an Advocates crisis clinician. They are available to help 24 hours a day, every day.
Adapted from: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
Additional Resources For Support with Mental Health and Disaster Stress:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Hotline: 1- 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
- CDC Mental Health Tools and Resources
- Infographic-NAMI Common Warnings Signs of Mental Illness
- NAMI COVID-19 Resource and Information Guide