Advocating for Mental Wellness this May
Every year, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness or crisis. Fewer than half of them receive treatment for it. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the #TRN team asks you to join us in advocating for mental health education, support, and access for all. Together, we can end the stigma.
If you spend a few minutes scrolling through the countless TikTok videos labeled #MentalHealthAwareness, you might be surprised at how many smiling faces you'll see. Smiling, successful extroverts document their lives spent dancing, traveling, and surrounding themselves with equally adventurous friends.
“Just Because I’m Smiling, Doesn’t Mean I’m Happy”
But along with the imagery of this dazzling life comes an unexpected caption: "Depression can also look like this," "Just because someone is smiling, doesn't mean they're happy," or "Proof that you don't always know what someone's going through."
A Post-COVID Crisis Continues
Beyond the pandemic's massive health and economic implications, the COVID era will also be remembered by many as a period of depression, anxiety, and isolation. Even as the pandemic wound down and people began returning to their everyday routines, over 80% of surveyed Americans reported experiencing one or more symptoms of depression.
But it also seemed to usher in a new wave of openness regarding addressing mental health issues within our society.
Every day we learn more about how trauma and mental health crises can affect anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, income, or level of perceived success. We also know that mental health crises can significantly affect our cardiovascular and overall physical health. But now that we know all of this, what can we do about it?
Recognize the Warning Signs
The fact is, symptoms of mental illness can vary significantly from person to person. The key is to try and spot changes to a person's typical patterns or behavioral baselines while understanding that they may also be experiencing temporary situational stress due to job loss or changes, a new baby, or other life events.
But the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) does provide a list of common warning signs and symptoms of a mental health problem:
Less than healthy sleep patterns, with a person either sleeping too much or too little
Distancing from loved ones and typical activities
Experiencing or exhibiting low to no energy
Inability to execute routine tasks or minimum daily functions
Emotional numbness or feeling that nothing matters
Aches and pains that are unexplained or unrelated to a physical ailment or activity
Increase in or new habit of smoking, drinking, and/or drug use
Increased feelings of confusion, irritability, hopelessness, helplessness, forgetfulness, worry, and/or fear
Increased conflict, confrontations, or outbursts with loved ones or work associates
Severe mood swings
Persistent intrusive, harmful thoughts or hearing voices in one's head
Thoughts of self-harm or of harming others
Share Mental Health Awareness Resources
Here's the rundown of some free resources to support you or someone you know who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. And even if it doesn't necessarily feel or seem like a "crisis," maintaining open dialogue and a list of available resources can go a long way in breaking down stigma and supporting the ones we love.
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) is federally funded and designed to offer free, confidential support to anyone who is depressed, going through a hard time, or contemplating suicide. Trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 through the platform.
The Lifeline offers call, text, and web chat options. Call or text 988 to access it or visit their website for web chat options. The Lifeline also provides specialized services for Veterans and active service members, which can be accessed by texting 838255 or calling 988 and pressing Option 1.
Powered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), FindTreatment.gov offers an anonymous, searchable index of mental health services by geographic location. You can also narrow your search using several filters, including:
Medicaid covered facilities
Telehealth and virtual options
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
NAMI is currently the largest grassroots mental health organization in the U.S. Its experts and volunteers work to bolster mental health support through community advocacy and education, shaping public policy, and offering resources like locally coordinated support groups and HelpLine assistance.
If someone in your life may need help, but you need help figuring out what to do, NAMI can be a great place to start. In addition to its staffed HelpLine, its website offers a wide range of information on treatment options, discussion groups, and other ways to learn and connect.
Employee Assistance Programs
Depending on your employer, you may have access to confidential mental health resources if your company participates in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
EAPs are administered by your employer, but a third party provides mental health and specific services within the program. If you're a full-time employee with benefits, reviewing your benefits package to see if you're eligible may be a good idea.
Be Compassionate With Your Loved Ones, And With Yourself
Last but not least, try to be gentle with yourself or with your loved one who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. A mental health crisis can be one of the most frightening, confusing, and isolating experiences a person may ever go through, and you can never know for sure who is going through it at any given time.
When we choose to offer patience, support, and understanding, we can help break down those barriers of isolation and remind those we care about that they are always worthy of love. And by promoting open dialogue and access to services, we're doing our part to address critical gaps in our communities. Let's work together to strengthen our support systems and #endthestigma. NEXT: 1 in 36: The Rise and Realities of Autism