Jumo Health Blog

October 5, 2018

Mental Illness Awareness Week: 7 Mental Health Tips

By: Columba Quigley, MD, FRCP, MA Lit & Med

Mental health conditions are common, and can affect anyone, young and old.

  • Mental illness affects millions of Americans—1 in 5 adults (18.5%) experience mental illness in any given year. Even if not directly affected, we all know someone who has experienced mental illness.
  • Despite the fact that mental illness affects so many people, lack of awareness, and misunderstandings persist.
  • Mental Illness Awareness Week happens during the first week of October. Initiated in 1990 by NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Illness, this annual event aims to raise awareness around the reality of living with a mental health condition, to provide support for those affected, and to challenge the stigma that surrounds a mental illness diagnosis.
  • Mental illness affects young adults and children, too. 21.4% of those between the ages of 13 and 18 experience a serious mental disorder at some point during their lives. For those aged 8-15, the figure is around 13%. Approximately 50% of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14. Increasingly, effective treatments are now available, but long delays persist between the onset of mental health problems and seeking help. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for those aged 15-24.

At Jumo Health, we are committed to raising awareness around mental illness. We see this as a critical step towards stopping the stigma that so often accompanies the diagnosis of a mental health condition. In May 2018, we launched our pledge to continue the conversation around mental health awareness. This commitment extends beyond this week, this month, to include every day of every year.

A Personal Story of Mental Illness

Jumo Health understands that personal stories- of hope, of perseverance, of strength- often carry an authentic purview that an evidence-based piece lacks. Our In My Words podcast series is one such example.

  • Our mental health episodes includes Gianna’s story as she shares—aged 16—her experience of depression and anxiety. During her freshman year, she started to feel increasingly sad, lethargic, and reluctant to engage with her family and friends. Those close to her struggled to understand what was going on, and felt uncomfortable talking about it.
  • Gianna talks about the pressure she felt as a teenager to achieve, to perform well academically, to succeed, pressures that escalated and escalated, culminating in a suicide attempt. Knowing that she could not deal with her depression on her own, she reached out for help and began her journey to recovery.

7 Mental Health Tips in 7 Days

Mental wellbeing needs just as much attention as our physical health—this applies to all of us, whether we are living with a specific mental health condition, or variously struggling with the challenges of everyday living. Maintaining mental health requires paying attention to the needs of others in addition to our own wellbeing.

  1. Showing your emotions is not a weakness—don’t suppress your feelings
  2. Admitting you need help is a strength
  3. Dealing with difficult emotions - remember the word PATH:
    1. Pause
    2. Acknowledge
    3. Think
    4. Help
  4. If you notice a friend whose mood has changed, seems to be losing interest in everyday things, reach out. You have a role—to be there without judgement or criticism, and to listen. You can make a difference. Helping others can also help you. Research has shown that teens—particularly those with social and emotional distress—who help others benefit themselves, too.
  5. Take care of your body. Regular exercise has been shown to improve mood and decrease anxiety and depression. Similarly, those who eat healthily tend to be happier. On the other hand, smoking and alcohol can make mental illness worse.
  6. Sleep well. Mental health conditions can be worsened by lack of sleep. Although it is different for everyone, it is recommended that adults should have about 7 hours of sleep per night, and adolescents, 9. Anxiety can make sleep difficult. Yoga and meditation may help the symptoms of anxiety and depression, which in turns allows for an improved sleeping routine.
  7. Even though mental illness affects so many people, stigma remains. We can change this by promoting awareness, and by continuing to educate ourselves on mental health, mental illness, and the experience of those living with these conditions. Get involved! There are many events throughout the year where we can show support and help stop the stigma.

Mental Health Resources

Our ability to provide a platform by which individuals can share their stories is what builds community and distinguishes it from a website. I am reminded of a quote from our blog post to mark suicide prevention month; the quote is from a colleague who chose this platform to tell her story and whose words underscore the importance of personal storytelling:

“There is hope. There is help. Some may need the help of medication…a therapist…a friend. Take one day at a time. One moment at a time. Cry when you need to. Scream if you can. Have someone listen. Listen to someone.”

Join us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram this Mental Health Awareness week and continue the conversation to #StopTheStigma and #OwnYourMentalHealth.

 

ABOUT COLUMBA 

Mother, physician, writer, cellist, (over)thinker. Lover of comics. Editor-in-Chief at Jumo Health

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