By: Nanette Kerwick, LMSW, CEAP, CAADC, EAC Clinical Specialist – May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The importance of mental health awareness month is to raise awareness and reduce the stigma that so many people experience.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, statistics revealed that one in five American adults lived with a diagnosable mental health condition. Additionally, studies show that 46 percent of Americans will meet the criteria for a mental health condition sometime in their life and half of those individuals will develop conditions by age 14.
Over the course of the pandemic, there has been a rise in mental health and substance abuse issues as people struggle to manage the changes that they are experiencing. Experts project that the impact of the pandemic will affect employees and employers for a long time to come.
So, what can you do to help yourself and others who may be struggling with mental health issues?
Is someone you know acting differently? Not sleeping or becoming more moody or irritable? Is there a reluctance to do their normal activities (safely)? Is the person using substances more frequently or increasing the amounts?
If you are concerned about someone, talk with them about your concerns in a private and confidential manner. Most people are often concerned about the stigma associated with mental health issues. So, the safest way to address your concerns is to let them know that people who are strong/capable can get depressed or anxious. Having a mental health concern doesn’t mean they are “weak” or that it is “all in their head”. Depression and anxiety can be serious conditions. However, if we act sooner rather than later, most forms of depression and anxiety are very treatable.
With early intervention and treatment, people do find relief. They learn and implement healthier coping strategies and can improve or eliminate their depression and/or anxiety symptoms.
Utilize Screening Tools.
There are a multitude of free, easy to use, short assessments found online (i.e. mhanational.org, webmd.com, etc.). Additionally, many Employee Assistance Program’s (EAP’s) offer online screening tools. For EAC clients, we offer a variety of screening tools.
Once screening has occurred and a decision has been made to seek services, reach out to connect with those resources and services. If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), contact them for free and confidential support. Alternately, if you have health insurance, call the number on the back of your insurance card to find a participating therapist. Those without health insurance should contact their local Community Mental Health provider.
There are also several crisis lines and helplines available that are free and confidential. These include:
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness – available Monday through Friday, 10AM-8PM EST at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. They provide information and counseling, if needed.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – a treatment referral helpline available at 1-877-726-4727, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 8 pm EST. You can get general information on resources in your area while talking to a live person.
- Most counties also have a 24-hour crisis line, as is required by federal law.
Talking to a therapist doesn’t mean someone will be diagnosed with an illness. There is a lot of research that suggests that just having someone to talk to is very helpful and it doesn’t imply they need “years of therapy”. Most therapists help people learn how to cope in a healthy way with daily struggles and stressors. If someone is not ready to talk to a counselor, any of the crisis lines offer referrals to warm lines where someone is available to talk and help them make a decision about seeking help.
Work on Self-Care.
Whether someone seeks treatment with a therapist or not, another way to achieve mental wellness is to start working on yourself. Look into what you can do for self-care. Things like meditation, getting good sleep, eating well, exercising and/or participating in activities that recharge you, are all things that will help you feel more in control of your life and your mental health.
Reach Out to Others.
Staying connected is a good way to boost your mental health and stay on top of how others are feeling. It doesn’t mean you should try to fix your loved one, friend, or co-worker, but being more aware of mental health issues may help you support that person to the point where they may want to seek help from a professional.
To recognize mental health awareness month, Mental Health America has put together a great mental health toolkit that can be downloaded for free from their website. It covers things like toxic influences, managing your feelings, healthy routines and how to connect with others and get the support you need.