Do the Right Thing

Spirit, science, and health

Mental Health Disorders Are Closer Than You Think

May is Mental Health Month....we should all pay attention!

May is Mental Health Month and we really do need to pay close attention to this topic since mental health issues impact all of us....and I really do mean all of us.

For example, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) report that 25% of all Americans have a diagnosable mental health disorder in any given year. Ongoing  and chronic stress not only impacts our psychological functioning and mental health but also negatively impacts our physical health and well being too including contributing to cardiovascular disease and a weakened immune system. The body, mind, and spirit all interact in a complex biopsychosocial way that we often don't pay close enough attention to. Interventions also typically involve biological, psychological, and social strategies as well. You don't simply just "take a pill" and everything is better. Research tells us that life and treatment is more complicated than that. 

Additionally, there still exists much discrimination and prejudice about mental health issues. For example, recent research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Vol. 41, No. 2) reported that 68% of Americans don't want someone with a mental illness marrying into their family and 58% don't want people with mental illness in their workplaces. But the truth is that you already have someone in your personal and professional life with a mental health diagnosis....I'll guarantee it! Plus, the reality is that at some point in all of our lives we all likely meet the diagnostic criteria for a mental illness. The big three include anxiety, depression, and addictions. And if these and other disorders don't impact us individually then they sure do when they impact our family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and so forth. You just can't avoid it. Sure, certain disorders like bipolar illness, schizophrenia, and substance abuse tend to get a lot of press but there are many others that impact people and you never hear much about them. 

The good news is that the vast majority of the time mental health disorders are highly treatable with state-of-the-art evidence based treatments offered by licensed professionals such as psychologists. The bad news is that most people that need mental health services never get them due to the stigma associated with these conditions, ongoing denial, lack of appropriate and reasonable referrals, and the lack of state-of-the-art information.  

Since most people with mental and physical health symptoms discuss them first with friends and relatives before they talk to anyone else (including professionals), we all have a part to play in helping others get the help that they may need. Today, anyone who has troubles with their emotions, thinking, behavior, relationships, and both personal and professional functioning can get quality and adequate information and direction for help. I wish that more people would be proactive in this regard. It would make the world a better place for sure and more comfortable for everyone. Plus, if you catch things early, prognosis generally is better as well. 

So if you or someone you care about has symptoms that imapct their social, personal, or work functioning and well being, don't ignore it but act proactively. Thoughtfully ask them how they are doing and encourage them to seek help. It's there. 

Get resources about mental health, mind/body health, and family well-being at any of the following online locations (and thank me later!):

www.apa.org/helpcenter

www.youtube.com/apahelpcenter

http://www.ymca.net/healthy-family-home/

http://www.whatadifference.samhsa.gov/index.html

http://www.realwarriors.net/

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/may

Copyright 2014 Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP

Check out my web site at www.scu.edu/tplante and follow me on Twitter @ThomasPlante 

Thomas Plante, PhD, ABPP, is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, SJ University Professor at Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University.

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