Millions of Americans struggle with mental illness everyday. In fact, 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental health condition at some point throughout their lifetime. Even those who never struggle with mental illness are impacted in some way, through family and friends. While mental health struggles affect everyone, there continues to be a lack of understanding.
Thankfully, May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, in an effort to increase knowledge around these issues. This year, HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York is taking part in this very important cause through promoting good mental health and well-being.
Mental Health Definition
A mental health disorder (often referred to as a mental illness) is a disorder of the brain that causes disturbances in behavior, thought patterns, or both. The behavior and/or thought disturbances then make it difficult to manage the stressors inherent to everyday life.
Types of Mental Health
Mental health disorders are broken down into different categories. There are over 200 types of mental illnesses that have been categorized. Yet, some are far more common than others:
- Depression and mood disorders – cause significant mood changes, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.
- Anxiety disorders – cause ongoing, and often overwhelming fear or dread regarding everyday situations. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia are some of the most common anxiety disorders.
- Psychotic disorders – thought patterns and perceptions are severely affected in those who suffer from a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia.
- Eating disorders – a range of disorders categorized by abnormal eating habits. Some of the most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia.
- Personality disorders – a mental health disorder characterized by unhealthy or rigid thought patterns that affect functioning and behavior, such as paranoid personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
What You Can Do
Watching a friend or loved one struggle with a mental health condition can be challenging. And while you cannot “cure” the mental illness, there are things you can do to support them.
- Educate yourself and be resourceful – educating yourself on mental health disorders is at the core of providing support to your loved one. Without education, it can be very difficult to understand and appreciate the impact mental illness has on a person’s life.
- Listen and don’t judge – let your loved one know you are there for him or her, and that you want to know more about their experience with mental illness. Be open, ask questions, and don’t judge.
- Encourage treatment – remind your loved one that there is help available; offer to research the different treatment options, or go with him or her to the initial appointment. Talking about what to expect when seeking mental health treatment can also help encourage your loved one to seek treatment.
- Acknowledge his/her courage – talking about mental illness, living with mental illness, and seeking treatment for mental illness all take tremendous courage. Let your loved one know you recognize this.
- Take care of yourself – in order to be the best support for your loved one, it is essential for you to continue to take care of your own mental health and overall wellbeing.