Mental Health Awareness Month

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time for people to learn more about mental health conditions and seek help for them.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental health concerns affect one in 10 Americans today, but fewer than 25 percent of people with a diagnosable mental disorder seek treatment.  The goal of Mental Health Awareness Month is to help increase the number of people who will talk to their doctor or a mental health professional about their concern.

Mental illness is a real and treatable set of conditions that includes major depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dozens more.  These disorders are serious enough to significantly impact a person's daily life, functioning at school, work or their relationships with others.

Knowing the early warning signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illness will help to identify problems early.  Family and friends are often the first to step in to support a person through these early stages.  Experiencing symptoms such as loss of sleep, feeling tired for no reason, feeling low, feeling anxious or hearing voices shouldn't be ignored or brushed aside in the hopes that they go away. 

Like other diseases, we need to address these symptoms early, identify the underlying disease, and plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health.

There is a wide variety of treatment options for mental illnesses ranging from talk therapy to medication to peer support.  It may take some time for a person to find the right treatment or combination of treatments that works best for them.  However, with effective treatment the results can be truly amazing and life changing.

Psychotherapy is generally time-limited and focused on addressing specific goals in a person's life.  Many of the early interventions can lead to significant improvement within the first few weeks of seeking treatment.  Depending on the illness, if invested in treatment, people are often able to reduce or eliminate their distressing symptoms without medication.

Despite the strides made in our understanding and treatment of mental illness in the past two decades, many mental health concerns are still misunderstood and stigmatized. For example, people with a mental health concern can't just "snap out of it" and most cannot successfully treat themselves on their own.  Mental illness is a serious condition and, if left untreated, results in longer periods of dysfunction in a person's life as well as the painful feelings associated with the particular condition.

It's up to all of us to know the signs of mental illness and take action so that it may be identified early and treated.  We know that intervening effectively during early stages of mental illness can save lives and change the trajectories of people living with mental illnesses. 

A mental health screening tool is available online at www.mhascreening.org. It is an anonymous, free and private way to learn about your mental health and see if you are showing warning signs of a mental illness.  Be aware of your mental health and get screened today.

For more information, please contact the Mental Health Clinic at 283-7511.