A little education can prevent a lot of suffering
One out of five Americans will experience a mental illness over the course of any given year. But it’s not just a lack of awareness that causes people to suffer unnecessarily. There is also a pervasive social stigma about this kind of disease, and one way to combat that is to recognize Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 1–7). It’s the perfect time to get informed and take some initiative about good mental health— for yourself as well as those around you.
Mental illness is complicated—experts still can’t say exactly where it comes from, but they do know that there are multiple possible triggers: major life changes, a family history of the disease, hormonal changes, and more. Regardless of the cause, here are some things to keep in mind this week:
Tips for self care
There are lifestyle choices you can make to prevent the risks and effects of mental illness, which can include stress, anxiety, and and emotional upheaval.
- Healthy relationships: Humans are social animals. Talking about what bothers you can help you feel better and give you safe space to work out solutions to problems.
- Nutrition and exercise: When you eat well, you feel better. When you raise your heart rate and start sweating, you naturally reduce stress. These are the basic building blocks of self-care.
- Be aware: Take stock of the stressors in your life (work, school, relationship, etc.) and listen to the warning signs your body is telling you. If you find that you feel overwhelmed or cannot get through your daily routine for days at a time, you might need to seek professional help.
- Get help: No matter what, tell someone you trust how you’re feeling. They might not have all the answers, but just talking can open the door to the next step in recovery. Also, keep in mind that only when you take care of yourself are you better able to help others.
You can take a free online screening to help assess whether you’re experiencing more than just the common blues. (Think of it as a “check-up for the neck up.”) This screening is completely anonymous. For the general public: via Circles of Care in Melbourne; for students: via the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne.
For busy students who could use some basic pointers on self-care, here are some tips.
How to Support Others
The high prevalence of mental illness suggests that each of us probably knows people—perhaps even in our own households—who will experience it at some point. Learn to be an advocate for friends and family members experiencing mental health challenges.
- Let your friend or loved one know that you care about them: It is important to create a safe space for someone who may be suffering from mental illness. Kindness and compassion goes a long way.
- Listen respectfully and without judgement: Sometimes it is enough to simply provide a sounding board for the person, so they can hear out loud what they’re feeling inside. There is often no need to “fix” them, or even necessarily give advice.
- Seek professional help: No one should go through this alone. If a friend or loved one shows signs of true mental distress, it is important to seek professionals who can connect you with a network of support.
Looking for resources? Call the Helpline of the National Alliance for Mental Illness at 800-950-NAMI, email email@example.com. Or, find help in a crisis by texting "NAMI" to 741741. Together, we can create hope and erase the stigma of mental illness.
This article is part of the Harris Casel Institute’s weekly blog. We care about the health and wellness of all of our students. We conveniently offer many career training programs at our campus in Melbourne, FL. Contact us online for more info.