Important to talk, learn about mental health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which has been observed since 1949.

So, why does mental health still feel like a taboo topic?

Maybe we’re all just uninformed, perhaps some are ignorant, and, honestly, it can be tough to understand. Not understanding is reasonable.

When you aren’t affected by a mental illness, it’s virtually impossible to know to the full extent of how others feel.

Being informed is one way to raise awareness and the first step to trying to understand. The more you know, the more you can sympathize with others and be aware when signs and symptoms arise.

That being said, mental illness, according to the Mental Health Foundation, is a term used to describe mental health conditions that impact mood, thinking, and behavior. Those disorders can interfere with a person’s ability to relate to others or even function properly on a daily basis.

There are many different types of mental disorders, according to the World Health Organization.


In 2019, 301 million people were living with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are defined by excessive fear and worry, often causing significant stress and impairing functioning. Being one of the most common mental illnesses, there are several kinds of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, separation anxiety, and more. Depending on the severity, medication and other psychological treatments can help ease those with anxiety.


Depression is more than being sad, as it often leads to a loss of pleasure or interest in activities for most of the day, nearly every day, or even weeks. Common symptoms of depression include excessive guilt, low self-worth, hopelessness, thoughts about dying, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite, feeling low in energy, and more. People with depression are at an increased risk of suicide.


In 2019, 40 million people experienced bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder experience alternating depressive episodes with periods of manic symptoms. Depressive episodes mirror the feelings of those with depression, while manic symptoms can include irritability, increased energy, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, reckless behavior, and others. Effective treatments exist, like psychoeducation and medication.


PTSD can develop following exposure to extremely threatening or horrific events or series of events. Characteristics of the illness include reexperiencing the event through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of thoughts and memories, and persistent perceptions of heightened current threats. Treatment is different for everyone and often depends on the exposed trauma.


Approximately one in 300 people worldwide are affected by schizophrenia, and people with that illness have a life expectancy of 10 to 20 years below that of the general population. Recognizable signs include symptoms that impair perception and changes in behavior, including delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, or extreme agitation. Cognitive functioning is largely affected by schizophrenia.


Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, involve abnormal eating and preoccupation with food as well as prominent body weight and shape concerns. Symptoms and behaviors put those with the disorder at severe risk to both their mental and physical health, as it can increase medical complications. Effective treatment options exist, including family-based treatment and cognitive-based therapy.


Those with dissocial disorders often tend to lie, break laws, act impulsively, and lack regard for their own safety and the safety of others. Onset is often seen during childhood. Effective treatments usually involve parents, caregivers, teachers, social skills training, and cognitive problem-solving.


Neurodevelopmental disorders are behavioral and cognitive disorders that arise during the developmental period and involve significant difficulties in execution of specific intellectual, motor, language, or social functions. Common types of this illness include autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

None of those disorders — or others not mentioned — should be taken lightly, as there are severe connotations behind each one and millions of people are struggling with those illnesses on a daily basis.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can be confused for various other ailments, such as stress, fatigue, or even teenage hormones.

However, they are not to be dismissed.

If you or someone you know are experiencing any concerning signs or symptoms, there are people who can help.

Mental health care professionals are plentiful, including psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, and more, in addition to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached 24-7, 365 days a year by dialing 988.

At any time, mental illness can affect anyone, which is why it’s so important for us to learn about it and talk about it. Simply talking about it can help resolve the suffocating and isolating feelings that tend to come with mental illness.

It’s time to drop the stigma related to mental health and be more open about the things that affect us.


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