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If there has been one defining event that has catapulted mental health awareness to the forefront it is the pandemic. The Covid-19 quarantine has been the great equalizer, plunging us all into varying states of mental distress during coronavirus. Suddenly, as a society, we are much more aware of how fragile our mental health is, and have a better idea now how awful it is to feel awful. The increasing mental health awareness is coupled with increased compassion, which is something we can all benefit from.
During the pandemic people from all walks of life were introduced to emotional instability in one way or another. Whether we are feeling sad and lonely after months of seclusion, extra anxious due to financial worries, or downright hopeless because of the intense repercussions of the virus, virtually no one has been spared some emotional suffering this spring.
While no one relishes the idea of a global pandemic, if there is one bright spot it is the increasing mental health awareness that has followed in its wake. People will now hopefully have more empathy toward individuals who suffer from mental illness. After all, nearly 20% of Americans struggle with a mental health disorder, and surely that number will be revised upward after the recent data comes in. Because many of us have had our own brush with depression or mood swings lately, we will be more attuned to the signs of distress and can reach out to someone who is suffering.
We Take Our Mental Health for Granted
As we wind through the coronavirus event we might be pining wistfully for the “old days” when life was somewhat predictable and ordered. There has been a significant surge in emerging mental health issues that are now surfacing as the lockdowns ease and we attempt to re enter some level of normalcy. Jobs have been lost, favorite businesses have closed, and the dangerous virus continues to lurk. We can now see how we’d taken our mental health for granted.
Going forward, with increasing mental health awareness, it behooves us all to mind our emotional state better. This means learning how to nurture all aspects of our being, including mind, body, and spirit, to achieve optimal mental wellness. Some of the actions we can take include:
- Learning how to relax. We have been tested in recent months, being thrust into an unknown realm with lots of uncertainty about the future. Anxiety rates have skyrocketed because of the impact of all the pandemic-related stress. Going forward, we should be practicing coping techniques that help us better manage our anxiety, such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga.
- Getting better sleep. How many have lost sleep due to the undercurrent of added stress? Now is a good time to practice new habits that will improve sleep quality. These include such things as sticking to a regular sleep schedule, limiting caffeine, avoiding heavy meals in the evening, and shutting down electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
- Getting regular exercise. Even if you don’t enjoy exercising, it is in everyone’s best interest to find some physical activities or sports you can enjoy on a regular basis. This is because exercise has huge mental health benefits in addition to the medical benefits. Getting 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise per week will improve mood and reduce stress.
- Staying socially connected. During the stay-at-home orders many of us learned how important our social connections are—especially those who reside alone. People need people. We need to feel that we are cared for and valued, which is why we should nurture our friendships in a way that provides mutual benefits.
- Reaching out for help. If you have ever experienced a serious mental health crisis you understand how important it is to seek professional help from a mental health provider. Some problems are just too big for us to resolve on our own, which is where the psychotherapist comes in.
Caring for our mental health should be as high a priority as minding our physical health, our relationships, and our financial health. Without a stable emotional life everything suffers.
5 Ways to Increase Mental Health Awareness
Now that the mental health awareness ball is rolling, it is important to keep the momentum going. There are multiple ways to help increase awareness about mental health disorders, and the more open we are as a society the less stigma there will be attached to these issues.
Some ways to help increase awareness in everyday life include:
- Share topics on social media. One of the drivers for increased awareness about mental illness has been the use of social media platforms. Just posting occasional interesting articles or research data about such topics as depression, anxiety, suicide prevention, and such can bring awareness to the topics. Readers may feel inspired to share their own struggles, which is informative for others and helps break the stigma.
- Discuss mental health experiences. If you have struggled with a mental health issue and believe you can help someone else with a similar condition, go ahead and begin the conversation. Just showing the person that you can relate to their pain, and are willing to give them a supportive space to share, can offer them solace as well as helpful information.
- Start a blog. One way to reach a lot of people is through blogging about mental health experiences or topics. Maybe start a wellness blog that touches on all the aspects of maintaining optimal mental health, as well as disseminating information about signs and symptoms of distress, and treatment methods.
- Don’t ignore signs of distress. Sometimes we avoid acknowledging a loved one’s mental health issues because we are afraid we will embarrass them or hurt their feelings. What they really need is for someone to reach out and ask them what they are in need of, and offer to help. Even just driving them to an appointment or helping them sort out their insurance can be a huge support.
- Get involved in the community. There are multiple community nonprofits that are always open to receiving volunteer assistance. Charities exist that focus on kids, teens, young adults, and the elderly, and what better way to promote awareness than through support of these services. Get involved, and then spread the word.
Treatment of Mental Health Disorders
The earlier in the trajectory of the illness that treatment is provided, the better the recovery outcome. There is a wide spectrum of levels of care to treat everything from mild or emerging mental distress to acute psychosis, and everything in between.
Outpatient treatment. Most individuals first seek help for a mental health challenge through their physician, who can then refer them to a mental health practitioner. Private practice mental healthcare will likely involve medication, psychotherapy, and support groups. However, there are higher levels of outpatient treatment, such as day treatment centers. These provide a more intensive treatment protocol, such as daily sessions at an outpatient treatment facility or hospital setting.
Residential treatment. When an individual needs more targeted and comprehensive treatment for a moderate to severe mental health disorder, the residential treatment setting offers a much higher level of care. Residential treatment provides the individual with an opportunity to detach from their regular daily lives for an extended period to focus entirely on getting better. Treatment elements include:
- Individual Psychotherapy. Daily psychotherapy sessions with the primary therapist will allow patient and therapist to work together to help identify underlying psychological issue. During these sessions the individual will explore the areas that may be a source of pain or emotional dysfunction that could be contributing to the mental health disorder. Evidence-based psychotherapies might include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and others specific to the disorder.
- Medication. The individual will require the help of a medication that is designed to help relieve the main symptoms of the disorder. This relief allows the individual to better manage the condition on a daily basis, improving quality of life. Substances might include antidepressants, sedatives, anti-psychotic medications, or mood stabilizers.
- Group sessions. While in treatment for a mental health condition it can be helpful to chat with others who are experiencing similar mental health struggles. The small group setting allows participants to share personal stories and struggles. A licensed clinician will guide the topics of discussion and facilitate the group toward a productive meeting.
- Family-focused therapy. Family members gather with their loved one to learn more about the mental health disorder and how to manage expectations, reactions, and boundaries. Communication skills and conflict resolution techniques are often included in family therapy.
- Psychosocial process group. These sessions assist the individual in acquiring new social skills to help them better interact with others. These include coping skills, stress regulation, and problem-solving skills. These skills will lead to increased self-confidence and self-awareness within social settings.
- Complementary therapies. The use of specialized therapies that complement the psychotherapy are integrated into the residential treatment program. For example, individuals with trauma disorder that is impeding progress may benefit from eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR).
- Holistic therapies. Restorative activities that can enhance the evidence-based therapies might include yoga, art or music therapy, equine therapy, therapeutic massage, mental health retreats and mindfulness meditation techniques
Mental Health Hope Provides Mental Health Resources and Guidance
Mental Health Hope is an online provider of help and guidance for individuals enduring a difficult mental health event. Our compassionate mental health specialists will provide a free, confidential telephone assessment, as well as helpful information pertaining to the specific mental health issue. If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health condition, reach out to our team at Mental Health Hope today at (877) 967-9274.