May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and it is fortunate that we are seeing a growing level of attention to the causes, effects, and treatments for conditions that cause a great amount of suffering on their own and almost inevitably lead to behavioral issu
es that impact people’s physical wellbeing. Mental health has historically been stigmatized and conditions like anxiety, depression, sleep, and eating disorders are still often oversimplified, making education regarding treatment extremely important.
According to the Presidential Proclamation on Mental Health Awareness Month, 2023, “[t]wo in five adults report anxiety and depression, and two in five teens describe experiencing persistent sadness or hopelessness, exacerbated by social media, bullying, and gun violence.” As a nation and as individuals crawling out from under the shadow of the Covid-19 crisis and all the trauma it brought with it, we must be more aware than ever of the symptoms of mental illness, that it is necessary to seek treatment, and how to go about doing so.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that while stress and occasional anxiety are normal in a healthy person, it is important to realize when someone’s daily life is interfered with by anxiety. For example, a student taking a test might understandably be more nervous than normal; however, if this stress generates so much anxiety that they cannot focus on the exam or even give up entirely, they should seek a consultation to determine if this episode warrants future treatment. Anxiety is one term that often generalizes more specific yet related disorders. Obsessive compulsions, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and other conditions are responses to stress that go beyond what an individual can manage and develop into something that takes away from their ability to enjoy a healthy life. The term “individual” here is very important. Different people react to stress and resultant disorders in different ways, and treatment depends on that individual’s baseline, which can be determined by previous experiences, cultural/community expectations, or neurological health (no two brains are exactly the same).
If you find yourself experiencing anxiety or depression interfering with or distracting you from normal daily activities, if you realize that your regular behavior has changed as a result of the way you feel, it is vital that you seek help. Mental health issues only get worse when we isolate ourselves. Speak to a professional who can help you realize the nature of your condition and get you back on a path to deal with the issue and enjoy a happy, healthy life.