May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Beginning in 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has put a spotlight on the importance of mental health and wellness. There is such a stigma attached to mental illness or mental health in general, that over 70 years of advocacy and education have yet to overcome.
While 1 in 5 people will experience mental illness at some point in their lifetimes, everyone has faced or will face struggles and challenges that affect their mental health. You don’t have to be diagnosed by a doctor or therapist to know if you’re mental health is compromised.
Anxiety: Intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Some symptoms include: Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired.
Stress: Any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action.
Depressive symptoms: Hopeless outlook, loss of interest or pleasure, fatigue, sleep issues, irritability, changes in appetite and weight, uncontrollable emotions, thinking about death.
Alcohol abuse: Use of alcoholic beverages to excess, either on individual occasions (binge drinking) or as a regular practice.
Cannabis Abuse: when a person cannot stop using marijuana (dependence) and/or exhibits withdrawal symptoms when not using (ie. irritability, mood and sleep issues, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness.
I mention these mental health issues because they are the most common issues people are in counseling to address. Everyone has experienced at least one of these at some point in their lifetimes. It may not be the presenting issue they initially come into counseling for. Oftentimes, people come in to address relationship, work-related, anger management, school, or behavioral problems. It is through the counseling process that the above-mentioned mental health issues surface. Mental health issues are often the root cause of the conflict they are experiencing.
So if these are issues that all of us have or will go through in our lives, then why is there a stigma? The viewpoint of mental illness is people afflicted with one are seen as a “weakness”, laziness, “soft”, or a “snowflake”. This level of ignorance is astounding and dangerous. The lack of understanding, awareness, and compassion is the reason so many people struggle through life untreated. Why is someone with a mental health issue looked down upon, or seen as different than anyone else? People are embarrassed and hesitant to seek counseling because of the negative connotations mental health brings. Their reluctance to seek out treatment has led to worsening symptoms, self-medication through alcohol and drugs, and suicide. If the past few years have taught us anything, the loudest voices are often the most misinformed yet influential people out there. They express their ignorant views about mental health, ostracizing those who desperately need assistance and pushing them into the shadows. Then we hear all of the “thoughts and prayers” when something tragic happens.
The past couple of years have seen unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, alcohol, and substance abuse issues due to all things Covid-19. The pandemic took a tremendous toll on everybody in every way imaginable. It is still wreaking havoc on people today and will be felt for years to come.
I am passionate about helping people with their mental health. I welcome discussing it with those who are, shall we say, less informed. It takes tremendous courage and strength to accept that one needs help with their mental health. When someone comes to me for counseling, I want them to know they made the right decision and that help is on the way.
If you are experiencing any of the above issues, please do not hesitate to contact a therapist. You will be thankful you did! We don’t bite! We are people just like you! We are here to assist you so you can have a better quality of life and be the best YOU that you can be!
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