“Suck it up,” “cheer up,” “snap out of it,” “but you don’t look sick”- these are just some of the phras­es that well-mean­ing friends and fam­i­ly tell loved ones strug­gling with men­tal health issues. Research shows that one in five adults strug­gle with men­tal health con­di­tions.  Men­tal health strug­gles include depres­sion, bipo­lar dis­or­der, anx­i­ety, schiz­o­phre­nia, and eat­ing disorders.

Men­tal ill­ness is also becom­ing increas­ing­ly com­mon among teenagers; stud­ies indi­cate that approx­i­mate­ly one in five teens between ages twelve and eigh­teen are diag­nosed with a men­tal health dis­or­der.  These issues deeply impact day-to-day liv­ing and may also affect the abil­i­ty to relate to oth­ers.  When your men­tal health suf­fers, every­thing in your life will suf­fer as a result.

What is Men­tal Health?

Men­tal health includes our emo­tion­al, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and social well-being.  It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps deter­mine how we han­dle stress, relate to oth­ers, and make choices.

The fact is, a men­tal ill­ness is a dis­or­der of the brain – your body’s most impor­tant organ.   Like most dis­eases of the body, men­tal ill­ness has many caus­es – from genet­ics to oth­er bio­log­i­cal, envi­ron­men­tal and social/cultural fac­tors.  And just as with most dis­eases, men­tal ill­ness­es are no one’s fault.  For many peo­ple, recov­ery – includ­ing hav­ing mean­ing­ful roles in social life, work and school – is pos­si­ble, espe­cial­ly when you start treat­ment ear­ly and play a strong role in your own recov­ery process.

What Are the Warn­ing Signs?

Each ill­ness has its own symp­toms, but com­mon signs of men­tal ill­ness can include the following:

  • Avoid­ing friends and social activities
  • Feel­ing exces­sive­ly sad or low
  • Feel­ing help­less or hopeless
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Think­ing of harm­ing your­self or others
  • Inabil­i­ty to per­form dai­ly tasks like tak­ing care of your kids or get­ting to work or school
  • Feel­ing numb or like noth­ing matters
  • Overuse of sub­stances like alco­hol or drugs
  • Hav­ing unex­plained aches and pains such as headaches or stom­ach aches
  • Changes in sleep­ing habits or feel­ing tired and low energy
  • Feel­ing unusu­al­ly con­fused, for­get­ful, on edge, angry, upset, wor­ried, or scared

What Are Some Things You Can Do to Look After Your Men­tal Health?

  • Talk About Your Feel­ings – Just being lis­tened to can help you feel sup­port­ed and less alone. Talk­ing with a friend or loved one is help­ful but remem­ber, ther­a­pists are not only for those in the mid­dle of cri­sis — they’re incred­i­bly ben­e­fi­cial for peo­ple in all stages of life
  • Exer­cise reg­u­lar­ly – Exer­cise releas­es endor­phins, which have mood-boost­ing effects. Aim to exer­cise about 30+ min­utes at least five days per week
  • Eat Well – Your brain needs a mix of nutri­ents to stay healthy and func­tion well, just like the oth­er organs in your body
  • Stay Con­nect­ed with Fam­i­ly and Friends – Close, qual­i­ty rela­tion­ships are key for a hap­py, healthy life
  • Take a Break – a change of scenery or pace is good for your men­tal health
  • Get Out­side to Enjoy 15 Min­utes of Sun­shine – Sun­light syn­the­sizes Vit­a­min D which experts believe is a mood elevator
  • Send a Thank You Note – Let some­one know why you appre­ci­ate them. Writ­ten expres­sions of grat­i­tude are linked to increased happiness
  • Prac­tice For­give­ness – Peo­ple who for­give have bet­ter men­tal health and report being more sat­is­fied with their lives
  • Pur­sue Your Pas­sions – Enjoy­ing your­self can help beat stress and achiev­ing some­thing boosts your self-esteem
  • Sleep – Most adults need around 8 hours of sleep each night so try to make sure you’re get­ting enough shut-eye

Men­tal health is undoubt­ed­ly just as inte­gral as phys­i­cal health but it’s some­thing that we often don’t pri­or­i­tize.  We all expe­ri­ence times when we feel stressed or over­whelmed but if these feel­ings per­sist, it’s time to slow down and re-eval­u­ate your men­tal wellbeing.

Most peo­ple are afraid to ask for help, but seek­ing help is actu­al­ly a sign of strength, not weak­ness.  If you or some­one you know is strug­gling with their men­tal health, please reach out to a local men­tal health professional.