From childhood to adulthood, mental health is a part of your life every step of the way. It includes our psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing. The state of our mental health determines how we make decisions, feel and act towards others, and how we cope with the hardships in our lives.1
There are factors that may contribute to an individual’s chance of being exposed to having a mental disorder.
- Biological factors (Genes, brain chemistry)
- Life experiences (Trauma, abuse)
- Family history of mental health problems1,2
Early Warning Signs and Triggers
There are many situations in life that can take us on a rollercoaster of emotions such as divorce in the family or tension within friendships. It is important to not only spot warning signs and triggers in other people, but also in yourself. Below is a list of warning signs that are important to recognize when considering your mental health.
- Finding little or no pleasure in life
- Feeling worthless or helpless for long periods of time (Remember, this is not the same as feeling “blue” or sad for a while)
- Crying a lot
- Experiencing a change in eating or sleeping patterns
- Distancing yourself from people and everyday activities
- Feeling numb like nothing matters
- Arguing and/or fighting with family and friends
- Losing interest in your favorite hobbies
- Wanting to harm yourself or someone else1,2
Myths about mental health
- Myth: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.
- Fact: People with mental health problems are actually 10 times more likely to be victims of a violent crime.
- Myth: Therapy and self-help are a waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill?
- Fact: The best treatment for a mental health illness depends on the individual and could include medication, therapy, or both. Many individuals who have mental health issues also work with a support group counselor to help heal and recover.
- Myth: Prevention doesn’t work. It is impossible to prevent mental illnesses.
- Fact: Prevention of mental, emotional, and behavior disorders means to address the issue and promote the social and emotional wellbeing of individuals. Some of the benefits of promoting social and emotional wellbeing are:
- Lower health care costs
- Improved family life
- Lower crime rates
- Increased lifespan
- Higher productivity1
So How Do We Contribute to Your Mental Health In a Positive Way?
Listed below are activities that you can take to improve your mental health.
- Value yourself. It is not only important to value others, but also to value yourself and see yourself as a VIP of your own life. Take care of your mind by treating yourself with kindness and respect. Make time for yourself by doing your favorite hobbies or taking up a dance class. Try broadening your horizons by traveling or becoming fluent in another language.
- Take care of your body
- Eat nutritious meals
- Avoid cigarettes
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise (Decreases depression and improves mood)
- Get enough sleep
- Surround yourself with supportive people. Make plans with family, friends, or invest in activities that will encourage you to meet new people such as joining clubs. Having a strong supportive network contributes to our mental health.
- Give. Volunteering your time is not only self-fulfilling, but you are also helping others in need. Just think about it, you can help people and make new friends at the same time!
- Learn how to cope with stress in a healthy manner. Coping with stress is very important, considering that stress is a part of life. Do Tai Chi, exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet, etc. Whether it is good stress, or bad stress, we must learn coping strategies that will help us lead a healthy life.
- Relax your mind. Relaxation exercises such as meditation, mindfulness, and prayer can improve our view on life. Pick one and start practicing today.
- Set realistic goals. Aim high but be realistic. We have all gone through that phase of childhood where everyone under the sun asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Now is the time where you should think more about your answer. What do you want to achieve academically? professionally? personally? Write it down on paper and go through the steps you need to do in order to get to your goal. This will lead to an incredible sense of accomplishment, and more importantly, self-worth.
- Be spontaneous. We can sometimes get caught up in the monotony of life. Instead of committing to your daily routine, try something different that will spice things up! Plan a trip to a place you’ve never been, go on a different path when taking a walk, try food that is new to you.
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs. For some people, using drugs to “solve” their issues is common. While it will numb you for a little bit, engaging in activities such as excessive drinking and drug use will only intensify your issues, and may even make you feel regretful.
- Get help when you need it. The most important fact that people must remember is that there is treatment. If treated properly, people with a mental illness can fully recover.3
It’s all in the attitude
According to National Alliance in Mental Health (NAMI), approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million, or 18.5%) experiences mental illness in a given year.4,5 So why is seeking help still taboo in America? Fear, shame, and embarrassment by family members and peers often influence people to not seek help. Here a few points to remember when in need of help, but reluctant to take action:
- Mental health problems are real and not something you can just “snap out of”
- Gender does not matter, it is OK to ask for help because you CAN get it
- Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness3
- Mental health is just as important as physical health
- You wouldn’t avoid a physical illness, so why ignore mental illness?
- There is hope. People recover and ultimately go on to live healthier lives2
At USPM, there are many health and wellness programs equipped with coaches and nurses that will assist you. If you are interested in having a health coach or nurse case manager help you on your journey to a healthier you, please refer to your Preventive Plan portal.