May is mental health awareness month. To that end, we will be running a series of posts that will hopefully help to build a better understanding of what mental health is, and how to effectively combat the stereotypes. Most of our information has been gleaned directly from Mental Health America. Mental Health America (MHA) – founded in 1909 – is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. Their extensive packet of information can be found here. The goal is to identify and treat a mental illness before it reaches stage four. Stage four is when a person is no longer able to effectively function in their day to day life. Just like other major diseases, we should start with prevention. We would never wait until a person has reached stage four to treat cancer or heart disease because the earlier it is identified, the better the outcome. The same is true with mental illness. If left untreated, statistics say many people will suffer for ten or more years before getting a proper mental health diagnosis. When someone first begins to experience symptoms such as loss of sleep, feeling tired for no reason, feeling low, feeling anxious, or hearing voices, we should act.
Seven percent of American adults had a major depressive episode in the year 2014. That equates to 15.7 million people. That is enough people to fill every major league baseball and football stadium in the United States four and a half times. People with depression say, among other things, that it feels like your head is surrounded by a thick, black unrelenting fog. It is important to note that depressive disorders are real illnesses that involve extended periods of feeling extremely low. These feelings disrupt a person’s ability to enjoy life. Depressive disorders affect the body, the mind and behaviors. There are several ways to tackle depression. The list includes, but is not limited to exercise, reaching out to a friend, calling a therapist and challenging negative thoughts. Interacting with animals has also been shown to lessen the feelings of loneliness and depression. Program instructors at Rein in a Dream note that many disorders – including depressive disorder- are lessened when a client is interacting with a horse or other animal. To learn more about depression and/or to get a free screening visit www.mhascreening.org.