How is Your Mental Health?

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.  Beginning in 1949, Mental Health Month has put a spotlight on the importance of mental health and wellness.  There is such a stigma attached to mental illness or mental health in general, that over 70 years of advocacy and education have yet to overcome. 

While 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness at some point in their lifetimes, everyone has faced or will face struggles and challenges that affect their mental health.  You don't have to be diagnosed by a doctor or therapist to know if you're mental health is compromised.  

Anxiety: Intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Some symptoms include: Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired.

Stress:  Any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body's response to anything that requires attention or action. 

Depressive symptoms: Hopeless outlook, loss of interest or pleasure, fatigue, sleep issues, irritability, changes in appetite and weight, uncontrollable emotions, thinking about death.

Alcohol abuse: Use of alcoholic beverages to excess, either on individual occasions (binge drinking) or as a regular practice.

Cannabis Abuse: when a person cannot stop using marijuana (dependence) and/or exhibits withdrawal symptoms when not using (ie. irritability, mood and sleep issues, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness. 

I mentioned the above mental health areas because these are the most common root issues people are in counseling to address.  Everyone has experienced at least one of these at some point in their lifetimes.  Now, it may not be the presenting issue they initially come into counseling for.  Oftentimes, people come in to address relationship issues, work-related problems, anger management, school issues, or behavioral problems.  It is through the counseling process that the above-mentioned mental health issues surface.  Once that occurs, the treatment can really start. 

So if these are issues that all of us have or will go through in our lives, then why is there a stigma?  Why is someone with one of the above concerns looked down upon, or seen as any different than anyone else?  People are embarrassed and hesitant to seek counseling because of the negative connotation mental health brings. They view mental illness as a "weakness", laziness, being "soft", or "snowflake".  This level of ignorance is astounding.  The lack of understanding, awareness, and compassion is the reason so many people struggle through life untreated. 

This past year has seen unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, alcohol, and substance abuse issues due to all things Covid-19.  The pandemic took a tremendous toll on everybody in every way imaginable and is still wreaking havoc on people today.  Now, these same symptoms are playing out due to the coronavirus vaccine.  Anxiety, fear, and paranoia can cloud some people's judgment, and take away a sense of rational thought.  When that occurs conspiracy theories abound, further entrenching people in their beliefs, and thereby perpetuating the problem.  That not only holds true for the coronavirus but for mental illness as well...especially when they themselves experienced it!  (So just as people should do their due diligence with research on covid-19 and the vaccine, they should do the same with mental illness).  

If I sound aggravated I'm not.  I am passionate about helping people with their mental health.  I welcome discussing it with those who are, shall we say, less informed.  It takes tremendous courage and strength to accept that one needs help with their mental health.  When someone comes to me for counseling, I want them to know they made the right decision and that help is on the way.

If you are experiencing any of the above issues, please do not hesitate to contact a therapist.  You will be thankful you did!  We don't bite!  We are people just like you!  We are here to assist you with your issues so you can have a better quality of life and be the best YOU you can be!

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