Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo by Fabian Møller / Unsplash

The importance of mental health has been on the rise in our ever-changing, uncertain world. Mental heath includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Mental health is essential at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Mental illnesses are disorders, ranging from mild to severe, that affect a person’s thinking, mood, and/or behavior. Some conditions include personality disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and suicidal behavior.

Many factors contribute to mental health conditions including life experiences, biological factors, family history, and trauma. Having a mental health condition can make it difficult to function at work, keep up with school, stick to a regular schedule, have healthy relationships, socialize, maintain hygiene, and more. A Serious Mental Illness is a mental illness that interferes with a person’s life and ability to function and perform everyday tasks.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one-in-five adults live with a mental illness. It is important to note that anyone can have a mental illness without even knowing it. Awareness of mental health and how to support it are vital in helping yourself and others around you.

Early Warning Signs + Symptoms

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities.
  • Having low or no energy.
  • Inability to perform daily tasks.
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters.
  • Having unexplained aches and pains.
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless.
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual.
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared.
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends.
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships.
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can't get out of your head.
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true.
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others.


A diagnosis of a mental illness can be made by seeing psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and licensed mental health counselor or therapist by performing a comprehensive patient history and diagnostic screening tools.


Treatment for mental health disorders consists of psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. With self-awareness and early and consistent treatment, it is possible to manage these conditions, overcome challenges, and lead a meaningful, productive life.

Tips to Support Your Mental Health Condition

  • Stick to a treatment plan. Even if you feel better, don’t stop going to therapy or taking medication abruptly without a doctor’s guidance. Work with a mental health professional to safely adjust doses or medication if needed to continue a treatment plan.
  • Keep your primary care physician updated. Primary care physicians are an important part of long-term management, even if you also see a psychiatrist.
  • Learn about the condition. Being educated can help you stick to your treatment plan. Education can also help your loved ones be more supportive and compassionate.
  • Practice good self-care. Control stress with activities such as meditation or tai-chi; eat healthy and exercise; and get enough sleep.
  • Reach out to family and friends. Maintaining relationships with others is important. In times of crisis or rough spells, reach out to them for support and help.
  • Develop coping skills. Establishing healthy coping skills and mechanisms can help you deal with stress easier.
  • Get enough sleep. Good sleep improves your brain performance, mood and overall health. Consistently poor sleep is associated with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions

Self-Care Practices

Self-care is unique for everyone, and it is important to find what you need and enjoy. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you. Understanding your triggers and what coping techniques work for you can help manage your mental health.

  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Also, limit caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks or coffee.
  • Make sleep a priority. Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so reduce blue light exposure from your phone or computer before bedtime.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore relaxation or wellness programs or apps, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy such as journaling.
  • Set goals and priorities. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
  • Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night, or replay them in your mind.
  • Focus on positivity. Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
  • Stay connected. Reach out to your friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.

When to Seek A Mental Health Professional

If you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms listed below that have lasted 2 weeks or more, then it is time to work with a mental health professional to begin treatment and the healing process.

  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Thoughts of sleep harm or suicidal ideation.
  • Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes.
  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable.
  • Inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others. Mental health is essential to your overall health and quality of life. Research shows that mental illnesses are common in the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year. Estimates suggest that only half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment. Treatment for mental illnesses usually consists of therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

Awareness of mental health and how to support it are vital in helping yourself and the million of others around you. Always remember, that you do not have to wait until symptoms are overwhelming or out of control to seek help. Do not suffer or just try to keep pushing through. Reach out to family and friends and talk about your concerns with your primary care provider, who can refer you to a mental health professional.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Thank you for reading this article.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.