Mental health is fundamental to our overall health

Millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. That means you probably know someone or are yourself living with a mental health condition. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s a great time to talk about it and help put an end to the stigma about mental health issues.

How many people really are dealing with a mental illness?

Generally, 1 in 5 adults and children have a diagnosable mental illness. That makes mental illness more common than cancer, diabetes or even heart disease, and yet we hear much more about those diseases than we do about mental health conditions. That’s why this month is so important. About half of the adults in the United States will develop a mental illness at some point in their lives. It is normal in our society for people to have or develop a mental illness. It’s also normal to live a life of recovery.

How do you know if someone needs help? What should we look for?

Symptoms for children and adults can vary, but changes in behavior, feeling sad or depressed for an extended period of time, drug or alcohol abuse, changes in eating or sleeping habits, suicidal thoughts, and excessive anger, hostility or violence could indicate a mental illness. It can happen at any time in a person’s life, but mental health conditions often appear for the first time during adolescence.

What are the things that increase a person’s risk for developing a mental illness?

Like other health conditions, your risk is higher if a blood relative, like a sibling or a parent, has a mental illness. Other risk factors include brain damage because of an injury, traumatic experiences, using illegal drugs, being abused or neglected as a child, and even another chronic medical condition, such as cancer. Mental health issues are NOT caused by personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing.

If you need help, or you know someone who needs help, where do you start to get that help?

If a person is having suicidal thoughts, please call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Otherwise, you can talk to your doctor, and you can call the Idaho CareLine by dialing 211 and our agents will help you find resources. You can also visit the Department of Health and Welfare’s website, which has a lot of great information, including the numbers for the behavioral health crisis lines in each regional office. Those are available around the clock, every day of the week.

Does treatment help?

With treatment, most people have a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life. More than two-thirds of Americans who are living with a mental illness are also leading productive lives because of their care and treatment. People can and do recover. Treatment works.

(A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the May 3 segment.)


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