World Mental Health Day: October 10, 2018
The thought of “mental health” often makes us uncomfortable. It has traditionally been seen as a taboo subject that people don’t often talk freely about.
Why is this? Why is mental health often swept under the rug and only spoken about behind closed doors?
The outdated and unfounded stigmas surrounding mental health are the driving forces behind World Mental Health Day.
A green ribbon is used to raise awareness of mental health issues including mental illness, depression, bipolar, and traumatic brain injuries.
On October 10, 2018, the World Federation of Mental Health presented “World Mental Health Day” with the intention of raising awareness about mental health. Part of this includes the use of a green awareness ribbon.
But by raising awareness and bringing the topic of mental health into the mainstream, it’s the organization’s hope that those dealing with mental health issues can live better lives with more dignity.
To do my part in raising awareness, I’ll be discussing various issues surrounding mental health in a two-part blog series.
So if you’re struggling with your own mental health, keep reading this week’s post to discover more about mental health along with treatment options and next week’s post to learn about neuronutrition for mental health, so that you can bounce back and regain a healthy mental state.
Let’s open our minds and our hearts to those living with mental illness and their families. Let’s take this opportunity to break down stigmas and learn more about mental health.
A personal note from Kelly about mental health
Throughout my life, I’ve encountered many people who’ve gone through a mental health crisis. I’ve had friends suffer from depression, try to commit suicide, and deal with chronic mental instability. I’m sure you have encountered such people, too. Perhaps it’s even been you.
But the person who’s mental health had the greatest impact on me happened to the person closest to me in the whole world - my husband, Joe.
After sustaining a traumatic brain injury years ago, the physiology of his brain changed, and with that so did his behaviour, temperament, moods, and ability to handle stress. The chronic pain he was in and unrelenting migraines he suffered left him depressed. He also suffered with PTSD, anxiety, and panic attacks. Most days he only wanted to be left alone. Even the slightest stressor was impossible for him to handle at times.
For me, aside from watching him suffer daily, the hardest part was not knowing what each new day would bring. How would he feel? How would he react to different stimuli? What noise or words would set him off? How would he be able to cope?
If you know us and our story, you know that things are a lot better now. You probably also know a great deal of that improvement resulted from the proper diet (neuronutrition), mediation, and deep breathing exercises he did, as well as the supports he received.
It is for my husband and for all people around the world who are dealing with or who have had to deal with a mental health disorder that I dedicate these words.
Through blog posts like this one and public speaking engagements, it is my intention to educate the public about mental health, to share my story, and to do what I can to help others who are suffering.
It is also my hope that through information like that which I have to share, no one has to suffer alone.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health is often referred to as one’s emotional health or personal well-being. It relates to our cognitive, emotional, and behavioural states. Simply put - it’s how we think, feel, and behave.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as:
"... a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Mental health also includes our ability to adapt to changing situations, attain balance in everything we do, enjoy life to its fullest, and become psychologically resilient.
Our mental health, then, is just as important as our physical health.
Mental health conditions range from daily worries and stresses we all experience to ones with more serious long-term effects. These conditions have been divided into two main categories, ‘neurotic’ or ‘psychotic,’ based on symptoms experienced.
Neurotic refers to emotional symptoms that have become severe forms of everyday experiences. They include depression, anxiety and panic attacks, which are also among the most common mental health problems. Anxiety and depression rank first, with about 1 in 10 people affected at any given time. Symptoms can be mild or severe, having a limited or major impact on the individual’s ability to manage daily life.
Less common but more severe are ‘psychotic’ symptoms. They affect 1 or 2 out of every 100 people and interfere drastically with one’s perception of reality. Some of the more severe mental health issues include bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The individual may lose touch with reality or experience hallucinations, where they see, hear, feel, or smell something no one else does. Alternately, they might hold irrational or unusual beliefs, feel unrealistically powerful, or misread and misinterpret everyday events. Regardless, these forms of mental illness affect one’s daily life, relationships, and even one’s physical health.
Though certain symptoms are common among different mental health issues, no two people behave the exact same way when dealing with the same mental health disorder. Some people who experience mental health issues can bounce back from a setback easily while others may feel weighed down by it for an extended period of time.
Interestingly, one’s mental health doesn’t always stay the same. If you’ve ever dealt with a mental health issue, you’re likely well aware of this. It often changes as circumstances in our life change or as we transition through different stages of life.
Most people keep their feelings and symptoms hidden because they are afraid of what other’s may say or think. Because of this, many people remain undiagnosed, even if they struggle to cope with daily life.
But most learn to live with their mental illness or overcome it, especially if they get help early on.
There is a stigma attached to mental health problems, however. People often feel uncomfortable around the topic and don’t like talking about it. Many people don’t even feel comfortable talking about their own feelings. But just as it’s healthy to know and talk about how you feel, it’s also important to know what mental health is and how to maintain it the best way you can.
What causes Mental Illness?
Though there is no known reason why some people tend to experience anxiety, depression, or panic attacks when faced with life’s challenges while others may not, there does appear to be a few complex factors at play.
Our genetic make-up
Biological, or physical, changes in the brain
Psychological factors including coping difficulties or self-esteem problems
External factors such as environmental or social issues, including isolation
What is known, however, is that mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar are disorders of the brain. It is also known that they can cause issues with how we think, move, and feel - all major functions of the brain.
Who is Affected by Mental Health Problems?
Mental health problems may be more common than you think.
In fact, at times we are all affected by mental health problems. We all go through times when we feel down, stressed, frightened, or unsafe for various reasons. Most of the time, these feelings pass. For some people, however, they can develop into a more serious long-term problem - something that can happen to any one of us at any time.
Each year, one in four adults and one in ten children will be faced with a mental health issue from depression or anxiety to brain injuries to paranoia or schizophrenia.
In addition to the individual affected, mental health issues affect countless others from family and friends to co-workers and strangers encountered on the street. In fact, mental illness profoundly affects millions of lives each year, hindering one’s ability to make it through the day, to maintain and sustain healthy relationships, and to attain or maintain a job.
The stigma attached to someone suffering with a mental health issue is often damaging, making it even more difficult for the individual to get help.
In fact, the majority of those affected by a mental health problem face various ongoing issues ranging from isolation to uncertainty on where to get information or help. They are often forced to rely on the informal support of family, friends or co-workers. This can lead to additional feelings of guilt or shame for the individual. Alternately, it can put such a strain on the caregiver that they themselves end up needing support.
This is why a day like World Mental Health Day is so important.
It is time to raise awareness. To deal with damaging stigmas. To present the facts. To increase our understanding of mental health problems. And to learn what we can do about it.
As a society affected by mental health, we must work to identify the causes, find solutions, and recognize that we are actually dealing with medical issues.
Should a mental health issue arise for you or a loved one, what can you do about it?
Treatment Options for a Mental Health Disorder
People with mental health disorders have various types of treatment available to them. However, it’s crucial to realize, especially when mental health is concerned, that what may work for one person may not necessarily work for another.
Often, different treatments or strategies are more successful when they are combined with others. Additionally, certain strategies may work better at specific stages of a person’s life or at different times throughout their illness. Most experts agree that a well-informed patient is the person most qualified to judge what treatment best suits them and when.
Various treatment options can include:
Psychotherapy: This involves the psychological or therapeutic approach to dealing with mental illness. Examples of the various treatment options can include Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Tapping, or exposure therapy. Often, a combination of these works best.
Medications: Medication is not a cure for mental illness, however certain medications may improve symptoms in some people, especially in extreme cases. Have a meaningful conversation with your doctor to discuss your options and to see if medication may help.
Talking it through: Though it may be hard to open up, talking about what you are going thorough with family, friends, or others who may have had a similar experience can be helpful. Find a local support group or organization who can help. It may embarrassing at first, but sharing what you are going through and asking for help can help you cope with a problem and feel supported.
Self-help: This involves a more natural approach to dealing with mental health disorders. It includes various dietary and lifestyle changes such as eating well, improving sleep quality and quantity, meditation, relaxation, exercise, and reducing alcohol intake.
The self-help component including more natural ways to deal with a mental health issue should one arise, especially as it relates to neuronutrition, will be the focus of next week’s blog. So be sure to register for my newsletter so you don’t miss out on this valuable information.
Finally, let me leave you with some facts about mental health. Becoming more aware about such a widespread issue like mental health can help break down barriers, dispel myths, and dismantle stigmas.
Fast Facts about Mental Health
Fact: Approximately 20% of children and adolescents in the world have a mental health disorder or problem. In fact, about half of all mental health problems begin before the age of 14. Psychiatric disorders are one of the leading causes of disability in young people across the globe.
Fact: On average, 800,000 people commit suicide each year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15 to 29 year-olds worldwide, and mental health disorders are among the main reasons why. It’s also estimated that for every every one adult who commits suicide, there are more than 20 others who have made an attempt.
Fact: Mental health disorders are major risk factors for other diseases and injury. Mental health disorders increase one’s risk of developing HIV, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and vice-versa.
Fact: Stigma and discrimination often prevent people from seeking appropriate and potentially life-saving mental health care. Misunderstandings and stigmas around mental illness are widespread. Beliefs that people with mental illnesses are untreatable, unintelligent, difficult to manage, or incapable of making decisions are common. These stigmas often lead to abuse, isolation, and rejection, and can even prevent an individual from attaining treatment for a mental disorder, despite the availability of effective treatments.
Fact: There are some major barriers to increasing the availability of mental health services. Some of these include a lack of public mental health leadership, inadequate resources, the current organization of mental health services available, a lack of integrating mental health with primary care, the absence of mental health funding, and the omission of mental health from the public health agenda.
Remember to wear a green ribbon throughout the month of October to let others know you care about your own mental health as well as theirs. And if you see someone else wearing a green ribbon, acknowledge its meaning or use it as a conversation starter.
Education is critical. Good mental health, when combined with physical activity, a socially active lifestyle, and the proper diet, can help reduce the risk and severity of mental health problems.
If you need help with a mental health issue and would like to know what natural modalities may be available to you, contact me. I’d be happy to help. And don’t miss out on next week’s blog post. Register for my newsletter to find out how neuronutrition can help with a mental health disorder or prevent one from occurring.
As always, I welcome your feedback. Let me know what your favourite ways are to avoid overeating at meals by contacting me or commenting below. I’d love to hear from you!