The Mental Health of America declares May a Mental Health Month.
Last year, the theme was about the mind and body connection. This year, expanding on last year’s message, the Mental Health of America point us into looking at our work-life balance, social connections, recreation, spirituality and religion.
We are reminded to value animal companionship and the therapeutic value of humor in our life. But first recognize that your mental health and the mental health of your loved ones needs some attention. Be aware of the signs and symptoms.
MHA provides the following stages of mental health conditions:
• Stage 1: Mild symptoms and warning signs. At this stage a person begins to show symptoms of a mental health condition, but is still able to maintain the ability to function at home, work or school — although perhaps not as easily as before the symptoms showed. Often, there is a sense that something is not “right.”
• Stage 2: Symptoms increase in frequency and severity and interfere with life activities and roles. At this stage, it usually becomes obvious that something is wrong. A person’s symptoms may become stronger and last longer or new symptoms may start appearing on top of existing ones, creating something of a snowball effect. Performance at work or school will become more difficult, and a person may have trouble keeping up with family duties, social obligations or personal responsibilities.
• Stage 3: Symptoms worsen with relapsing and recurring episodes accompanied by serious disruption in life activities and roles. At this stage, symptoms have continued to increase in severity, and many symptoms are often taking place at the same time. A person may feel as though they are losing control of their life and the ability to fill their roles at home, work or school.
• Stage 4: Symptoms are persistent and severe and have jeopardized one’s life. By this stage 4, the combination of extreme, prolonged and persistent symptoms and impairment often results in development of other health conditions and has the potential to turn into a crisis event like unemployment, hospitalization, homelessness or even incarceration. In the worst cases, untreated mental illnesses can lead to loss of life an average of 25 years early.
A person going through the mental illness symptoms development may not be cognizant of the changes. It’s up to all of us to know the signs and take action so that mental illnesses can be caught early and treated. Everyone deserves to live to fullest potential. Mental health screening by a mental health care professional can help with the diagnosis early on. Mental health conditions are common but there are also a wide variety of treatment options and combinations available. It may take some time to find the right treatment combination that works for individuals with life changing results.
Building health habits that can help pick you up in times of the blues is within your control. Create simple joy and satisfaction in your life. The MHA also offers the following ways to create joy and satisfaction in our lives:
• Strengthen your funny bone — pick up some joke books or humorous essays; put together a collection of sayings or photos that makes you smile; keep a humor tape in your car; watch or listen to comedy; laugh at some of the hassles in life if you can.
• Find some fun — play golf or just goof around and restock your energy supply.
• Find your flows — find activities that totally absorb you and make you feel fulfilled; get more flow by identifying the high points of your day; inject more meaning or ingenuity into your routine tasks.
• Indulge — soak in a tub of fragrant soaps; submit to a relaxing massage; take a nature break; take a mental vacation to a faraway dream place.
• Get more out of what you got — notice the positives in your life and practice mindfulness; savor your meal slowly and relish the texture, flavors, and aromas. Don’t rush.
Share your joy with others and when you’re feeling good, just let it out! Go ahead, jump up and down, clap your hands, scream, act it out. It is contagious!