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Key Items to Know About Mental Health During Mental Health Awareness Month

Key Items to Know About Mental Health During Mental Health Awareness Month

As we watch the daily news, scroll the internet and linger over our social media newsfeeds, and talk to family and friends from around the world, it's all too apparent that instability, violence, hate, tears, and constant traumatic events are sadly becoming daily occurrences.

Bullying and discrimination have shown their ugly faces once again, causing the subject of mental health to arise from the depths of a deep, dark alley. In a world where mental illness is on the rise, the subject of mental health still is seemingly taboo. 

We, along with many organizations would like to help change that. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it is extremely important to reach across the nation to draw attention to the various - and often surprising - ways that mental illness affect people's lives. This May, a number of new research findings highlight the need for increased understanding of, empathy for, and respect for people mental health issues.

Mental Illness is Normal

People who struggle with mental health issues have long felt that they are different from others. Due to the lasting stigma, discussions of mental illness tend to speak about "people with mental illness" as of they are a foreign group that a few of us ever encounter. The reality is that mental illness is incredibly common. In fact, a recent study claims that a life unmarred by mental illness is the real anomaly, especially in the age groups from 11-38 years old.

Not many people realize the constant stressors and challenges that are happening in or around the lives of young people today. All of the issues that our young people face, such as bullying, suicide, the onset of major mental illnesses,  the effects of trauma, and discrimination require our time and attention, awareness and compassion. We also need new programs and guidelines on how we, as a whole, can protect and empower the next generation.

Did you know? Young people who grow up with additional stressors due to the effects of trauma, discrimination, bullying, mental illness, and suicide are more likely to have mental health issues throughout the rest of their lives? Here's a look at some statistics that may surprise you:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among those aged 15-29 years old.
  • 83% of young people say that bullying has had a negative impact on their self esteem and mental health.
  • 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness, but that is only 20% of the population. Yet, only 4% of the total health care budget is spent on mental health.
  • Among nearly 100 transgender youth, ages 12 to 24 years old, 51% reported that they had suicidal thoughts, while 30% had attempted it at least once in their lives.  

In a study, which followed people ages 11 to 38 years old, and tracked their mental health, 17% avoided mental illness. 41% had a mental health condition that lasted for many years. 42% had a short lived mental illness. This study suggests that mental illness becomes an issue for most people. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse were the most common diagnoses in the study. 

Bullying + Mental Health

Bullying is widely one of the most negative aspects of youth and young adulthood today. This is an issue that transcends culture, religion, economic status, and it is a global problem that not only impacts a person's self esteem, but it harms their education, as well as their physical and mental wellbeing.

Sadly, bullying - including cyber bulling - continue to have no boundaries. These acts of hate and hurt can happen anywhere in the world, at any time, and with any ages. The focus of what is seen and read is primarily on youth because kids want so badly to be accepted by their peers, so do teenagers.

Bullying can affect everyone - those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide. By bringing bullying into the light, it gives hope. Hope for the victims of bullying, and hope for those who have been bullied in the past. 

The main takeaway point from bullying and its effects on mental health is that we cannot continue to let those who suffer go through their struggles alone. They need to know that there is always someone by their side to help, nurture, and be with them - no matter what. It can't continue to be dismissed as a harmless, almost inevitable, part of growing up. This mindset needs to change and people need to acknowledge that bullying is a serious problem.

Did you know?

  • Childhood bullying can damage adult life, indicating long term negative consequences for health, employment prospects, and relationships.
  • School bullies are more likely to grow into adult criminals.
  • The most negative outcomes are for people who had been both victims and perpetrators of bullying.
  • Bully victims are described as: easily provoked, low in self esteem, poor at understanding social cues, and unpopular with peers. 
  • Bully victims tend to grow into adults who are 6 times more likely to have a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop a psychiatric disorder.
  • By their mid 20s, former bully victims are more likely to be obsese, to have left school without qualifications, to have drifted through jobs, and less likely to have friends. 
  • Those who had been victims of bullying, without becoming bullies themselves, are more likely to be in poverty. 
  • Those who were bullies themselves, are more likely to be fired from jobs, to be in violent relationships, to be involved in risky or illegal behavior, and are known to have manipulative and aggressive behavior. 

If you see or hear bullying going on whether it's at school, work, home, stand up. Say something. Be the change to help stop it. 

The Effects of Trauma on Young People + Their Mental Health

In today's world, young people are absorbing all of the terrifying news that occurs on a regular basis. The international news carries frightening stories about violence and trauma, and those stories only seem to be increasing every day. Children and teenagers are witnessing violence and disasters around them, which can leave lasting impressions. 

A traumatic event can be anything from domestic abuse, neglect, floods, earthquakes, gun violence, war, physical assaults, death and accidents. While some trauma is unpredictable and unavoidable, young people who do not have support systems, the impacts can last for months, years, or a lifetime. Children from all walks of life endure violence, and millions more are at risk every single day.

Violence against children takes many forms, including: physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and may involve neglect or deprivation. Violence occurs in many settings, including the home, school, internet, and community. Sadly, a wide range of perpetrators commit violence against children, such as family members, intimate partners, teachers, neighbors, strangers, and other children. Such violence not only inflicts harm, pain and humiliation, it also kills.

Did you know?

  • Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence.
  • The protection of children from all forms of violence is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights treaties and standards.
  • Children who have been severely abused or neglected are often hampered in their development, experience learning difficulties, and perform poorly in school.
  • Children may have low self esteem, and suffer from depression, which can lead to risk behavior and self harm.
  • Children who witness violence can cause similar distress. Children who grow up in a violent household or community, tend to internalize that behavior as a way of resolving disputes.
  • They often repeat that pattern of violence and abuse against their own children and spouses.
  • 18 million children are being raised in the chaos of war.
  • In the past 10 years, as a result of armed conflict, over 2 million children have been killed, 6 million have been disabled, 20 million are homeless, and more than 1 million have become separated from their caregivers.
  • Children between the ages of 12 to 18, having had more years exposed to violent conflict, struggle to recover from years of compounding traumas, often revealing pervasive feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, grief, resentment, anger and fear.  

Mass violence is shocking and disturbing to youth on many levels. It disrupts the way that they see the world, makes them feel out of control, unsafe, and that the world has lost its meaning. They can begin to worry that dangerous things can happen to them or those they love.

We can help our young people cope with these additional stresses of mass violence and trauma occurring in our world. How? Monitor the amount of TV watching. Ask your children what they have heard or what other kids are saying. Find out what concerns your child has and take them seriously. Tackle the tough questions, such as the why's and how's. Keep the routine, and spend more time together as a family. Allow more time for extra comforting, process your own feelings, and monitor your child's behavior and seek help if necessary. 

Major Mental Illnesses

Researchers have determined that at least half of all mental health disorders appear by 14 years old, and about 75% by age 24. Serious mental illness incurs huge personal, social, and economic costs, therefore, early detection and intervention can help reduce the toll of these mental illnesses.

Often, we see teenagers and young adults struggle with the effects of mental health issues, and many of these are conditions that need prompt attention. Some of the more serious illnesses that young people have to abruptly deal with are: depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. However, these illnesses affect people of all ages as well.

Worldwide, it is said that Depression is the leading cause of disability, more so than cancer or chronic pain. According to data from the World Health Organization, depression has held the place of the leading cause of disability for years, with no sign of decreasing.

Despite increased awareness, the rate of depression is not getting better. Particularly in developing nations, people often do not or are unable to receive treatment for symptoms of depression.

Guide to Depression

Depression is much more than feeling temporarily sad. It's a serious and debilitating mood disorder that can change the way you think, feel, and function in your daily life. When you're depressed, you may feel hopeless, helpless, and it can seem like no one understands. However, depression is far more common in than one may think.

Signs & Symptoms of Depression

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor school or work performance
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

You are not alone and your depression is not a hopeless case. Even though it can feel like depression will never lift, it will. And, there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself start to regain your balance and feel more positive, energetic, and hopeful again.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder 

Bipolar mood episodes include unusual mood changes along with unusual sleep habits, activity levels, thoughts, or behavior. In a child, these mood and activity changes must be extremely different from their usual behavior, and the behavior of other children. A person with bipolar disorder may have manic episodes, depressive episodes, or mixed episodes. A mixed episode has both manic and depressive symptoms. 

These mood episodes cause symptoms that last a week or two, or sometimes longer. During an episode, the symptoms last every day for most of the day.

Manic episodes include:

- Feeling very happy or acting silly in a way that's unusual for them and for people their age.

- Having a very short temper.

- Talking very fast about a lot of different things.

- Having trouble sleeping, but not feel tired.

- Having trouble staying focused.

- Risky behavior.

Depressive episodes include:

- Sadness

- Complaints about pain, ex: headaches or stomachaches

- Sleep too little or too much

- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

- Eating too little or too much

- Little energy and interest in activities

- Thoughts of death or suicide

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. In rare cases, children have this disease too. The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into 3 categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

Positive Symptoms: are psychotic behaviors not generally seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms may lose touch with aspects of reality. Symptoms include: hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, and movement disorders.

Negative symptoms: are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. Symptoms include: flat affect, reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life, difficulty beginning and sustaining activities, reduced speaking.

Cognitive Symptoms: involve changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Symptoms include: poor ability to understand information and use it to make decisions, trouble focusing or paying attention, and problems with working memory.

Suicide Facts

Every day, someone takes their own life. Celebrities, young people, the elderly, poor, healthy, and sick - suicide does not discriminate. For young people, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death, and it is completely preventable. The facts are clear, the research conducted, so why is suicide still prevalent? 

The issue remains the same. We have to bring mental health awareness into the spotlight, and make it as normal as having the flu, diabetes, or a cavity. No one should feel alone or afraid to talk about how they feel, and no one should get to the point where they feel that they don't matter, or nothing else matters. Education, advocacy, and prevention measures would go a tremendous length to helping people step back from the ledge.

Did you know?

  • Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide each year.
  • For every suicide, there are many more attempts. A prior attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among 15-29 year old people.
  • 78% of global suicides occur in low and middle income families.
  • Ingestion of pesticide, hanging, and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally.

As a global society, we can and we must learn all the information possible, see beyond the illnesses and the situations, and understand why people take the last step and what we all can do to reverse that decision, before it's too late. To learn more about suicide prevention, including the signs and symptoms, as well as risk factors, click here.

Mental and Physical Health Are Inseparable

Research increasingly continues to point out the link between physical and mental health. For example, some studies suggest that chronic inflammation may cause depression. Others have found that mental illness can affect physical health, or lead to symptoms of chronic pain. 

The invisible line between the mind and body is imaginary. Our thoughts reside in the brain, and the brain lives in the body. It's affected by what we eat, how we spend our time, our environment, and our overall health. 

Imagine a world without stigma. Imagine a world without shame. Imagine all of the good that we could do to contribute to mental health awareness. Imagine the people we could educate, the lives we could save. What a wonderful thought, and the best part is, we CAN make it happen! By speaking up, by sharing our stories, by better understanding mental health diagnoses, and improving societal empathy, we can be the change we wish to see in this world.

Please consult with your doctor or other qualified health care professional before beginning any health regimen, or before taking any medication or supplements. 

If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, seek help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime, 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255  

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