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Medical Minute

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May is mental health awareness month. For those of you that experience mental health issues, you can only hope that your symptoms of depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc, only lasted a month. There are more people living with mental health today than ever before. 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness (National Alliance of Mental Health, NAMI).

Mental illness can affect one’s way of thinking as well as one’s ability to function from day to day. According to NAMI, a mental illness is a condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling or mood. Some of the most common mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, bipolar, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mental illness not only affects adults. A study by the American Academy of Family Physicians in 2019 found that 1 out of 6 children between the ages of 5 and 17 has a treatable mental health disorder. These conditions reference depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

As a provider, mental health is a condition that I am addressing daily. The need is great. The problems are real. In the past year we have experienced more stress, more changes, and more uncertainty than ever before. This unfortunately can lead to increased rates of depression and anxiety, as well as worsening pre-existing mental illness.

Symptoms of mental illness can vary but may include withdrawal from others, inability to concentrate, feeling sad or down, excessive worry, delusions, excessive tiredness or inability to sleep, excessive anger, problems with alcohol or drug abuse, and/or suicidal thinking (Mayo Clinic). 

Mental illness is a disorder of the brain with contributing causes such as genetics, biological, environmental and social/cultural factors. An important aspect of mental health awareness is to understand that mental illness is not a fictitious illness. Mental illness has long had a negative stigma in society. Individuals with mental illness often try to hide their feelings and even the symptoms. Mental illness does not make you inferior, it makes you human. Mental illness affects all ages, income levels, and genders.

For those individuals who are living in silence, you are more than your feelings of loneliness, abandonment, or inadequacy. Reach out! Tell someone how you are feeling. And to the person who is the one that someone confides in, please take it seriously. There are treatments such as medication and/or counseling that can be effective. Treatment may not be the same for everyone, but the first step is acknowledging what is happening in your body and mind.

If you or someone you know are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, please take the time to have a discussion with a medical professional. There is help. There is hope. For additional resources, contact the NAMI Hope Center at 417-864-7119. The National suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) can also provide support to individuals and/or family members that are experiencing mental illness.

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