Mental Health Awareness: 23 Experts on the Importance, Signs and Tips of Mental Illness

Sal Raichbach PsyD, LCSW
Sal Raichbach

PsyD, LCSW

Michael Jones Ed. S., LPC-S, NCC, DCC

Michael Jones

Ed. S., LPC-S, NCC, DCC

Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT

Heidi McBain

MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT

Dr. Christine Sauer

Dr. Christine Sauer

MD ND(Ger), INHC

Dr. Wyatt Fisher Licensed Psychologist

Dr. Wyatt Fisher

Licensed Psychologist

Cara Maksimow, LCSW

Cara Maksimow

LCSW

Shantala Boss, LMHC, RPT

Shantala Boss

LMHC, RPT

James McGuirk, Ph.D.,

James McGuirk

Ph.D

Anyea Anderson, MSW, LMSW, CAMS
Anyea Anderson

MSW, LMSW, CAMS

Toni Coleman, LCSW

Toni Coleman

LCSW

Koorosh Rassekh, M.M.F.T.

Koorosh Rassekh

M.M.F.T.

Jennifer Burkhardt, LPC, LCDC

Jennifer Burkhardt

LPC, LCDC

Julia Alperovich LMFT

Julia Alperovich

LMFT

Carole Lieberman M.D.

Carole Lieberman

M.D.

Khalilah Williams, MA, MFT

Khalilah Williams

MA, MFT

Kristina Hallett, PhD, ABPP

Kristina Hallett

PhD, ABPP

Stephanie Moir, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Stephanie Moir

Licensed Mental Health

Counselor

Sara Stanizai, LMFT

Sara Stanizai

LMFT

Jacilyn Bondy, LPC, LCDC

Jacilyn Bondy

LPC, LCDC

Rebekka Mikkola, Professional Cuddle Therapist

Rebekka Mikkola

Professional Cuddle

Therapist

Daniel G. Amen, MD

Daniel G. Amen

M.D.

Jeanne Nelson, President, NAMI El Dorado County

Jeanne Nelson

President, NAMI El Dorado

County

Ipek

Ipek Aykol

LMFT

The World Health Organization estimates that one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their lives. To put it in more personal terms, think about yourself and three of your best friends. At some point, one of you will struggle with mental health.

Awareness is so critical because it creates understanding and compassion within a community. Since it's not possible to see someone’s depression, anxiety or PTSD, it’s easy for the average person to ignore mental illness. That’s why awareness campaigns, like mental health awareness month, are important. They keep a spotlight on the issue and encourage people to advocate for others in their community who may be struggling. 

Signs of mental health issues can be emotional, psychological or physical. Often, the first signs of a mental health issue are slight disturbances in functioning, such as sleeping, eating or mood regulation. Things like lack of sleep and a poor diet can catch up with anyone at times, but if these problems are persistent, the cause might be mental illness. Sometimes, it’s hard for individuals to notice these symptoms within themselves, and someone close to them will be the first to address the issue. "Getting professional help for a mental health disorder is the best way to deal with these issues. That can be in the form of a psychiatrist who prescribes medication or a therapist who uses psychotherapy to get to the root of the problem. Evidence shows that a combination of different treatment methods yields the best results.

There are plenty of resources online that can help you find the appropriate mental health professional. Websites like Psychology Today and WebMD offer searches that help you find the appropriate professional based on a variety of factors like credentials, patient reviews and insurances accepted.

Michael Jones, Ed. S., LPC-S, NCC, DCC
Michael Jones
Ed. S., LPC-S, NCC, DCC

www.renewedvisioncounseling.com

Mental health awareness is of the utmost importance.  Each of us has times in our life when our current situation is not ideal and it is causing problems with us functioning in a way that is healthy.  It could be something as simple as an argument with a loved or something as tragic as a job loss.  Each of us reacts different to these situations and depending on our current mental health, we may or may not be able to "bounce back" to our normal self.       

Our bodies are designed to tell us when we are feeling our best, feeling our worst, or somewhere in between.  Individuals with anxiety, may find themselves worrying about situations that they do not have any control over.  They could notice symptoms such as: the inability to make decisions, psychosomatic symptoms (i.e. unusual intestinal issues or the inability to sleep), or being irritable.  Individuals with depression, may find themselves being upset about their current life situation and the seeming possibility that this situation may never change.  They could notice symptoms such as: feeling unhappy most of the time, loss of motivation, and sleeping for excessive time periods.        

The first step to getting professional help is to share with someone you trust how you are feeling.  It is always good to have some to hold you accountable so that you are not trying to deal with these feelings alone.  Next, look for licensed professionals in your area who are equipped to deal with the areas you have concern with.  Websites like TruCircle and Psychology Today, have directories where an individual can find a therapist that is local to their area.  Last, but not least, call your potential provider to see if they will be a good fit for you.  Each therapist has a specialty area and you want to find the one that is best suited for your needs.

Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT
Heidi McBain
MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT

https://heidimcbain.com/

Mental health is a very important piece of a person’s overall health. Mental health can have a positive or negative effect on the person as a whole.

Signs that you are suffering from a mental illness- it depends on the illness, but a big one is depression, and people often only think about if they are feeling down, but it also encompasses if they are sleeping more or less than usual, if they have lost interest in things that typically enjoy doing, If they have feelings of guilt, low energy, low concentration levels, eating more or less than usual, agitation and suicidal ideation.       

Steps you can take to get professional help- ask for referrals from friends, family, your doctors, etc. and then research the therapist online to see if they would be a good fit for you. Also, try to have a conversation with the therapist on the phone before your first session, again to assess if you like them and feel comfortable with them, and also to find out if they are an expert and specialize in the area you are needing help with at that time in your life.

Dr. Christine Sauer, MD ND(Ger), INHC
Dr. Chistine Sauer
MD ND(Ger), INHC

https://docchristine.com

It is extremely important to reduce the stigma and get the people suffering from mental health issues the courage to ask for help instead of suffering in loneliness and desperation, spiralling deeper into the abyss of emotional pain.         

There may be no signs at all outwardly withdrawal, but inwardly the sufferer may feel fatigue, having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, insomnia, aches and pains, sadness, feeling blue, taking sick days, feeling 'stressed-out", burnt-out, losing interest in activities, friends and hobbies and even close family, isolating themselves, worrying constantly, feeling nervous, overwhelmed, anxious, "dark clouds haning over them", and more.           

  1. Talk to your family doctor. If you feel too bad to talk about it, write your problem on a piece of paper and just hand it to your doctor. If you consider suicide, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room. Talk to a family member or friend to help you get help from a doctor, psychiatrist, counselor or coach (depending on the severity).

Dr. Wyatt Fisher Licensed Psychologist
Dr. Wyatt Fisher
Licensed Psychologist
https://www.christiancrush.com/

Extremely. Mental Health is as critical as physical health for overall functioning professionally and personally.  

Major impairment in at at least two domains of life, such as personal relationships and work.

1-Recognize the value of getting help. Let go of the idea you should be able to overcome mental illness by yourself.

2-Talk with trusted family and friends. What do they think could help and what counselors and psychiatrists would they recommend?

3-Sample several counselors to see which one has expertise in what you need help with and which one you feel most comfortable with.

Cara Maksimow, LCSW
Cara Maksimow
LCSW

www.maximize-wellness.com

Mental health awareness is just as important as awareness of physical health. Taking steps to take care of emotional and mental health proactively through activities such as meditation, self-reflection, journaling, or physical exercise, can help maintain positive emotional health.

Anxiety can manifest through recurrent distress and worry that feels out of control. Someone with an anxiety disorder may feel keyed up or restless, fatigues, difficulty concentrating, tension and difficulty sleeping. With Depression  someone may experience sadness for multiple days, lack of interest in pleasurable activities, perhaps weight loss and insomnia. Difficulty concentrating, possible thoughts of death or dying. Having overwhelming emotional responses that negatively affect day to day activities can be signs that it is time to seek support and help. 

Start by telling someone. Let a friend or family member know what is going on and do not isolate. You can start telling your doctor or looking for a therapist.  There are many resources online to find a therapist in your community. Psychology Today website is a good one to search by zip code. Seeing a therapist for stress, anxiety and / or depression is no different from seeing a doctor for the flu or an infection. Start talking with someone and understand that this is not something that you caused and isn't a flaw or reflect poorly on you, it is something that can be treated.

Shantala Boss, LMHC, RPT
Shantala Boss
LMHC, RPT
http://www.shantalaboss.com

Awareness is the first step to change.  So many individuals go through life feeling less than their optimal self.  They may not even realize that there is a better version of themselves out their that they can be, a happier, healthier individual who is more productive and available to his or her friends and family. 

If something is wrong with us physically, we go see a doctor.  What is different about mental health?  Our brains drive everything we do and everything we achieve, as well as predict our overall physical wellness.  Mental health wellness is an investment that gives a huge payback.

Signs include but are not limited to an overall decrease in ability to carry out daily tasks, changes in sleep patters, changes in appetite, changes in mood, extreme mood swings,  voices of concern by family members and friends, hyperactivity, lack of focus, obsessive thoughts, social withdraw, decrease in pleasure of regularly enjoyable activities, hearing and/or seeing things that are not there, drug abuse.               First,  educate yourself on the different types of mental health providers out there.  Find out what the differences is between a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a therapist.  Ask family and friends that you trust to support as you seek help. Contact your insurance to find a list of providers and know your in and out of network benefits. 

James McGuirk
James McGuirk
Ph.D.

https://www.astorservices.org/ 

The harrowing effect of mental illness on children doesn’t only seriously disrupt their young lives. It also can follow them through adulthood and impact their families, along with members of the communities where they live. The startling facts are that one in five children aged 13 to 18 have or will have a serious mental illness and that 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14; 75 percent by age 24. Moreover, suicide is the third-leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24.

Besides having trouble relating others and forming healthy relationships, children coping with mental illness have difficulty trusting others and feel victimized and disconnected, often the result of trauma. Bullying by others and stigmatism adds to their despondent feelings, leaving them vulnerable to dangerous behaviors and even suicide.

The good news is early intervention and screenings are key in fostering healthy development. Open conversations about mental health problems and a continuing awareness of the need for public, government and private therapeutic services, can help the children cope with and rise above the negative effects of the disease, putting them on the path to becoming healthy, productive individuals.

Pay attention to how your children speak and behave, especially when they’re bothered. Per the National Institute of Mental Health (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/treatment-of-children-with-mental-illness-fact-sheet/index.shtml), signs that they might need help coping include: 

  • Problems across a variety of settings, such as at school, at home, or with peers.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep.
  • Social withdrawal, or fearful behavior toward things your child normally is not afraid of.
  • Returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bed-wetting, for a long time.
  • Signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness.
  • Signs of self-destructive behavior, such as head-banging, or a tendency to get hurt often.
  • Repeated thoughts of death.

Therapeutic help by a mental health professional can help children, teens and adults cope with mental health challenges. If you or a loved one is being affected by mental health issues, contact:

  • A reputable early childhood developmental program for youngsters, including programs that focus on fostering healthy growth and behavioral development.
  • Community-based mental health programs or counseling centers.
  • Private mental health counselors.
  • Residential treatment programs, as appropriate.

If you’re not sure where to start, talk with a trusted person, such as a family doctor, insurance company/Health Maintenance Organization, clergy/religious leader, community center, hospital psychiatry department, outpatient mental health clinic, school staff and/or social service agency.

As well, various mental health hotlines are available and can help, including LifeNet (1-800-LIFENET), which provides free and confidential mental health and substance abuse information, referral, and crisis services for New York. 

Anyea Anderson
Anyea Anderson
MSW, LMSW, CAMS

https://www.centerfornp.com/

It’s very important as emotional and mental stability affects the way you interpret others actions, how you communicate with others, and how you interact with others.       

Fatigue, loss of energy, slowed thoughts, pacing, change in appetite, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, unable to concentrate or complete simple task, extreme mood swings, auditorial or visual hallucinations.    

Find a provider on psychology today or contact the behavioral health line on the back of your insurance card for a provider in your network and area

Toni Coleman
Toni Coleman​
LCSW

LifeChange Coaching

Mental health awareness is critical to knowing there is a problem that will not resolve itself without seeking appropriate help. If someone is in denial and/or believes that this is something they just have to get over and handle themselves--they will only get sicker and the consequences will negatively impact their careers, relationships, personal care, security, and/or overall functioning.     "Classic signs of mental illness can include: changes in mood, sleep disturbance, frequent crying spells (not related to a precipitating event), changes in appetite, loss of interests in pursuits once enjoyed, problems handling self-care and normal activities of daily living, racing thoughts, feelings of paranoia, suicidal ideation or plan, hearing voices or hallucinations. 

Someone who is experiencing one or more of these is at greater risk, and intervention should be sought quickly. If you have health insurance, this is the first place to go. Inquire about your mental health benefits and ask for a list of providers in their network. Then you can call several and ask specific questions about what they specialize in, their experience, etc. It's important to find a therapist you have a good fit with, so do shop around if possible.

 If you don't have insurance, call local mental health centers that are run by the county or a non-profit organization. Find out if there is a waiting list and get on it ASAP. They may also be able to direct you to local providers who have a sliding scale and will charge you a smaller fee per session. There may also be groups available for people who are struggling with the same or similar mental illness, and these are worth looking into. Don't rule out a thorough internet search that could uncover some good resources near you.

Koorosh Rassekh
Koorosh Rassekh
M.M.F.T.

https://www.evohealthandwellness.com/

Mental health awareness is central to wellbeing. Top athletes and corporate executives will tell you that the difference between average and peak performance is your mental state. And now, in a world where so many forces constantly are vying for your attention, such as work, social media, and politics, mental health is even more critical to your overall health. Being aware of your mental process gives you a tremendous amount of insight and ultimately flexibility to pursue your goals. 

We also know that your mental health can impact your tangible, physical experiences in the world, for better or for worse. For example if two people both witness a traumatic event, like a terrible car accident, one might be able to quickly bounce back, while the other might find the experience haunting them for years. Recognizing your emotions and listening to your internal dialogue without judgment can make a huge difference in helping you to become more resilient. Mental health also impacts physical health. We now know that with physical illness, a person’s mental state can improve or worsen their physical health."          If you find yourself confused by your behaviors, this is an important sign that you could be dealing with a mental health challenge. If your behaviors don’t move you toward your goals, something is getting in the way. Know that your system is responding in a logical way to stress. By addressing your stressors, you can gain the strength and flexibility to open up new possibilities in your life.

The first step is to seek recommendations. The best place to get help depends your particular experience and resources, but the most important thing is that it is a place that aligns with your beliefs. It’s a good idea to seek recommendations from people who see the world through similar worldview, such as a colleague or a friend. They will probably find a therapist who is more compatible with you. Don’t ask for a recommendation from people you don’t like! People are likely to seek therapists who are similar to them.

The next step is to interview your therapist. When you meet with a therapist, you are assessing whether they are a good fit for you. You should not feel like when you meet with them, your search is over and you are obligated to hire them as your therapist. All therapists offer a consultation and some offer a free consultation. 

One sign that your therapist is a good fit is whether you get the sense that the therapist understands you. For example, when the therapist responds to you describing a situation or experience and your feeling is, “Oh, this person got it!” or “This person is trying to get me” that’s an important indicator that you are a good match. This understanding leads to the ability to develop a therapeutic relationship, where you can develop trust and go deeper.

Jennifer Burkhardt
Jennifer Burkhardt
LPC, LCDC

www.jenniferburkhardtlpc.com

Mental Health still has a stigma that most people don't want to talk about, yet we need to. It's easy for others to blame a tragedy, such as the recent school shootings, on this, without knowing the real story. The more education we can provide, the more help we can provide to those in need.   "There are signs that we can often look for. For someone who may be depressed, here are the signs to be aware of:

 Isolating from friends and family

Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy

Excessive sleep

Change in eating habits - generally eating less

thoughts and/or plans for suicide

Anxiety is natural for everyone. However for someone with an anxiety disorder, we look at signs like this and the impact they have on a person's everyday functioning. 

irritable or on edge

trouble sleeping

trouble concentrating

worrisome thoughts - may focus on danger to others (death of family member, accident)

Getting Professional Help:

Talk to your Primary Doctor or OB/GYN

If you have insurance, look for a mental health provider in your area

Check to see if your employer offers EAP benefits

Contact local community health centers

Check with family and friends

Search online with Google

Utilize mental Health directories - Psychology Today, Therapy Den, Good Therapy, Open Path Collective

Julia Alperovich
Julia Alperovich
LMFT
Julia Alperovich

Given all of the stories we now see in the news about people suffering from mental health problems, it's crucial that we start taking mental healthcare seriously. For decades, mental health problems have been stigmatized and seeking help from a therapist meant there was something very wrong with a person. Mental illness can be subtle but it can wreak havoc on people's physical health, personal lives and relationships. Robin Williams and Kurt Cobain brought attention to depression and suicidality, Mariah Carey and Ricki Lake have openly talked about their struggles with Bipolar Disorder, Bella Hadid has gone on the record about her anxiety, and Crissy Tiegen has been on a mission to bring awareness to post-partum depression. Mental illness can affect anyone, and it's time we normalize this issue and take out the pressure to keep it a secret so that people can get the help they need.    

Mental illness can come in the form of many different symptoms. It can start with feeling disconnected or being on edge. It can be in the form of crying fits or panic attacks. It can even look like intrusive thoughts, countless failed relationships, or extremely low self-esteem. Hearing voices or hallucinating is not the only sign of mental illness.. Signs of mental illness can manifest at any given time, to any person, and in different phases of life. It is important to be aware of when you feel like something is off.   

If you feel like you may benefit from working with a therapist, you can start with a simple Google search. Most therapists have websites nowadays. But you can delve deeper into your search through your insurance provider, Psychology Today, Goodtherapy.org, or simply by asking around. Chances are your doctors know of good referrals and some of your friends might too. If you are looking for specific types of therapy, check out the organizations that train therapists in that specific type of therapy and see if they have a directory of providers. May your search be fruitful and may you find the help you need.

Carole Lieberman M.D.
Carole Lieberman
M.D.

www.drcarole.com 

Mental health awareness is extremely important because the sooner you recognize your symptoms, the sooner you can get help, before the illness becomes increasingly severe.

Signs that you are suffering from major depression can include: sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, isolating yourself, not wanting to do activities that you once enjoyed, feeling sad, and even having thoughts of suicide. Signs that you are in a manic phase of manic-depressive illness (also called bipolar illness) can include: having racing thoughts, shopping sprees that are out of control, being up all night calling people or doing projects with a lot of manic energy, and even being sexually promiscuous.  

To get professional help you can ask friends or family for a referral, call up the local association of psychiatrists or psychologists, or go to a hospital emergency room if your symptoms frighten you and you need immediate help. 

Khalilah Williams
Khalilah Williams
MA, MFT

www.mommytakeoffyourcape.com

 

I am a firm believer that a healthy lifestyle begins with your mental health. If there is a struggle in your mental health it will impact all aspect of your life. Your ability to be productive, be fulfilled and have balance depends on your mental health.    

Some commons sign that you are suffering from a mental illness includes but is not limited to withdrawing from social events or loss of interest in activities, difficulty thinking/remembering, changes in your sleep pattern and appetite, feeling nervous/anxious/fearful/suspicious of others, feeling disconnected from reality and heightened sensitivity to your senses (smell, touch, feel, sight)    

Your primary care physician should be able to support you with finding a mental health provider. Your insurance company should also be able to give you a list of professionals within your network. Some websites such as: psychology today, TruCirlce and therapy for Black Girls just to name a few provides a directory of mental health providers based on what your needs are.  Most state and county social service agency should be able to connect you with mental health services. Telehealth has become a new approach for individuals who do not want to go into an office or doesn’t have the means to do so; Talkspace is a service that can provide that convenience by matching you with a licensed therapist. Some licensed therapist also can provide you with telehealth services.   

Kristina Hallett, PhD, ABPP
Kristina Hallett
PhD, ABPP

https://drkristinahallett.org

Mental Health awareness is extraordinarily important.  We all need to pay as much attention to our  mental health and wellness as we do to our physical health and wellness.  One of the primary barriers to this is the stigma attached to mental health.  We don’t think twice about going to the doctor if we think we have a sinus infection (or something worse!), but many people hesitate for years to access support for mental wellness.  If we were as comfortable getting an assessment and support for mental health as we are for our physical health, we would avert a significant amount of mental health crises.        

Sadly, people still view stress and mental health as issues to attend to as a “last resort” – which makes recovery and resilience take that much longer.  There are reams of studies on mental wellness and positive preventive strategies that can help us to cope with the most difficult of circumstances, but we often wait until we feel overwhelmed before seeking help – primarily because we often view mental health issues as a “weakness” rather than as a natural course of living a human life.  

The best step that we can all take is to alter our mindset about mental health – and see this as important as physical health.  When we begin to feel “down”, or lose interest in our regular activities, or begin to feel increasingly stressed or anxious, that is the time to access professional support.  Acting early can significantly increase the speed and effectiveness of feeling better.  I have seen many clients for 1 or 2 sessions (total), and that’s all that’s needed in order to have a workable plan to address the stressors that have arisen, as well as to move forward in a productive and positive manner.  Of course, there are situations in which an individual may require additional or ongoing support – but the most effective solution is to talk to someone before it all feels “too much”, and to understand that this is a reasonable part of our human existence, not a sign of weakness or failure.

Stephanie Moir
Stephanie Moir
Licensed Mental Health Counselor

www.icarecrate.com

How important is Mental Health awareness? Our mind controls everything we do from moving our pinky to controlling our breathing. If we do not take care of our mind, it can negatively impact the way we feel, think and what we do. Think of it as another muscle that you simply have to work out and strengthen.      

Signs that you are suffering from a mental illness. When problems are growing and you just can not avoid them anymore it is definitely time for therapy. But therapy is also for anyone who wants to understand themselves or the people around them better. It is a misconception that by coming to therapy you will end up in a psychiatric ward or that you are broken. Therapy is about learning, growing and empowering.

Steps you can take to get professional help. Be open to the idea and realize therapy is a commitment. Therapy only works if you want it to work and you have to realize this before initiating a phone call. Then, take your time finding the best therapist fit for you. Not all of us are the same, we have different personal and professional backgrounds which is what makes us all unique. Find someone you connect with, listens to you and can help you meet your goals. Initiate a phone call and ask any questions you may have. Meet in person and decide if you can trust the therapist you met with, trust is a game changer in therapy. If you have trust, everything else will be easier.

Sara Stanizai, LMFT
Sara Stanizai
LMFT

www.prospecttherapy.com

As with many issues, awareness is the first step toward change.

Mental health awareness on a personal level is tricky for a few reasons.

  1. You might think everyone else feels the same way. "These feelings or experiences are normal, and not something to address."
  2. You might think NO ONE else feels the same way. "I'm the only one who thinks/feels this way, so no one else can help me.
  3. You might confuse mental health issues with regular parts of every day life. "Doesn't everyone have insomnia?" "Is this anxiety, or am I just annoyed with work right now?"

This isn't to say that everyone needs therapy, but I do believe that everyone may benefit from therapy.            

Some signs that your experiences are more than just "every day life stuff" include:

  1. Your feelings or habits impact your ability to get other things done. Sure, many people have a dip in energy after the work day and want to relax. But if you come home every day and don't get off the couch for hours, you may have high-functioning depression or anxiety.
  2. Your feelings start to affect your health. If you lose your appetite for enough time that you lose a significant percentage of your body weight, this may be a sign of depression. If you're struggling to sleep consistently, to the point where you are missing work, you may have a mental health issue that is typically addressed with therapy.

How to get professional help:

  1. Use a directory. There are a number of reputable therapist directories that will help you narrow down your choices by specialty, zip code, insurance, gender, therapeutic style, and other factors.
  2. Check with your insurance provider. They will have a directory of therapists who take your insurance.
  3. And most importantly: Virtually all therapists offer a free or low-cost phone consultation. USE IT! The most important factor in your success with therapy is that you find the right person for you. There is always someone who specializes in EXACTLY the issue you are experiencing. Make sure to find them, and you'll do great.

Jacilyn Bondy, LPC, LCDC
Jacilyn Bondy
LPC, LCDC

www.jbondylpc.com

Mental health awareness is equally, if not more important than your awareness around any other disease. Your brain is an organ just like any other. So, just like any other organ, it can be subject to its fair share of issues - no matter who you are. There is such a stigma around mental illness that it often goes ignored in favor of not being labeled as “crazy”. Mental illness needs professional treatment just as other illnesses, like cancer or diabetes, need treatment. The more we increase our awareness of mental health issues, the better we will be at treating them and removing the stigma that prevents so many from getting the help they need. 

Signs that you have a mental health concern can range from relatively mild (long periods of sadness, excessive anxiety, panic attacks, racing thoughts, etc.) to severe (hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, uncontrollable behaviors). These can be the result of a particularly stressful time in your life or could indicate a larger concern that needs treatment. Trust your gut – if the thoughts, emotions, or behaviors that you have feel excessive, uncontrollable, or abnormal in some way, it’s worth talking about with a professional. The simplest way to determine this is to get a mental health evaluation by a professional, such as a psychiatrist or a licensed therapist.

It’s important to find a professional that is a good fit for you based on what issues you’d like to work on and your financial situation. If you have insurance, you may want to start by contacting your insurance company to discuss your behavioral health benefits and to find out which providers in your area are considered “in-network”. Some providers also offer private-pay services if you don’t want to involve your insurance company. If you don’t have insurance, many states offer state-funded services through the local mental health authority for those that qualify (you can find this information on your state’s health department website). Online therapist directories are a great place to search for providers by zip code or specialty. If you are experiencing severe hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, or violent behavior, these should be addressed immediately by going to your local hospital.

Rebekka Mikkola, Professional Cuddle Therapist
Rebekka Mikkola
Professional Cuddle Therapist

https://www.nordiccuddle.com/

For Mental Health Awareness week in the UK, some large charities focused on the impacts of stress, as this affects a large proportion of the population and can lead to illness.     In extreme cases, stress can lead to burnout. However, it's important to be aware of your workload and seek to find way to de-stress where possible, which could include yoga, meditation and cuddle therapy.           

Cuddle therapy has helped clients who suffer from stress in various ways. From a physiological perspective, it has cured stress related symptoms by lowering heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body. Some people have explained how their breathing has improved and they’ve been able to fall asleep quicker and experience deep sleep without waking up in the middle of the night.

Daniel G. Amen, MD
Daniel G. Amen
MD

www.amenclinics.com

Striving for good mental health is a must.  If our minds are troubled, nothing else in our lives is as good as it can be. Anxiety, depression, addictions, ADHD and more rob people of joy and steal their happiness.  They undermine school, work and relationships.  Conversely, if our minds work well, we tend to be healthier, happier, more financially stable and more successful. 

A depressed mood, extreme irritability, memory problems, obsessive worrying, panic attacks, easy distractibility and compulsions toward destructive behavior are all signs that things might not be right with your mind.   

To have good mental health, you need to learn to love and care for your brain because that’s where most mental health issues are rooted.  Tactics can include brain imaging, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation, finding the right pharmaceutical drug or natural supplement, making sure you are in positive relationships, discovering your mission or purpose, prayer, meditation and the list goes on.  With the right treatment, the brain can and will heal itself.  As I always tell my patients, “change your brain, change your life.

Jeanne Nelson
Jeanne Nelson
President, NAMI El Dorado County

http://namieldoradocounty.org

Mental Health awareness is lifesaving.  It can mean the difference between life and death.  It can mean the difference between strong cognition and thriving independently vs living in a locked treatment facility or prison. 

Most new parents do not realize the importance of knowing genetic pre-disposition.   Understanding your family tree - going back multiple generations - hunting for those that had a mental illness and/or any addictive behaviors is crucial.   We know that schizophrenia and bi-polar for example are the most heritable of all mental illnesses (80-90%.).  We know that environment can play a role as well (trauma, extreme stress, and yes there is a strong link between schizophrenia and marijuana particularly when used in the teen years.)

Most parents do not take seriously that the brain isn't fully developed until mid-20's (to maximize cognition and job opportunities and college performance and relationships long-term it is vital that we educate families about wellness.) 

Genetic discoveries have emerged literally just in the last few years that profoundly change the landscape for those of us caring for a loved one with a mental health condition or for those of us living with a mental health condition.  Tools to understand mechanisms of these illnesses and improved strategies to think about mental health are emerging at a rapid pace.   This is a game-changing time to be in the field or start pursuing the field of brain research, cognitive neuroscience, psychiatry, brain surgery, advances in treatments and the like.

"If you're not studying genes, you're going to be dinosaurs in an age of mammals"    Daniel Weinberger, M.S. Director and CEO, Lieber Institute for Brain Development

We need to be educating the community about what wellness means from a pre-natal and post-natal perspective when there is a pre-disposition (family history) of mental illness and/or co-occurring addictive behaviors.   

Similarly, if we as a community are not talking about genetics in relationship to mental health we are doing a dis-service to our community.   We must talk about genetics; we must take the time to learn some very basics in this field of study so that we may in turn encourage our youth and young adults in particular to take notice.  

Some people get very excited when a new edition of People Magazine comes out weekly. For others they feel a rush of excitement when they see their favorite Sport's Team is playing.  For me, I'm filled with glee when a new scientific discovery with statistical significance is published that is aimed at improved understanding of our brain's health.   BBRFoundation.org is just one favorite website. 

The brain's Dopamine system, glutamate system, and GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) is implicated in many of our genes. 

Our ability to understand how genetics translates in mechanisms of risk and illness are a genuine sweet spot for advancements in treatment and research.

Genes are inherited and most of the genes that influence risk of schizophrenia for example exist from birth.    Scientists are keen to find ways to improve pre-natal health by targeting the healthy development of the placenta for example.   Understanding our family tree and learning as much as we can about genetics is really important.   We have been cheerleading this at every mental health outreach we do.  

Depression is ranked #1 in terms of lifetime disability.

 Brain research is now proposing that clock ""genes"" may play a critical role in depression.  The use of 24-hour rhythms and bio-markers to identify individuals at risk for suicide. Current studies are finding people with depression have abnormal 24-hour rhythms of temperature, hormonal secretion, sleep and mood which are all controlled by clock genes.

Future research studying molecular biomarkers in blood and clinical markers that could predict high risk for suicide and potentially save lives. 

Of course healthy diet, exercise, healthy sleep and minimizing stress and saying ""no thank you"" to invites from toxic individuals is important.   But we as a community need to learn some of the brain science because it is not as readily available as it needs to be.   When was the last time you went for a physical?  You see posters on the wall reminding you to get a colon screen or mammogram right?   But we do not yet see posters promoting brain health and mental wellness screening. 

The nation has a 50% deficit of psychiatrists.   People in our community sometimes feel frustrated by a 7-8 month wait to see a psychiatrist.  They wonder why do we have tele-psychiatry (something essential to close the gaps on wait-times.).   Zimbabwe (Africa) has 1 psychiatrist for over 1 million people.  

Appreciating what we have is part of everyday wellness.   We encourage our NAMI friends and families to end each day by appreciating something about themselves and doing something special for themselves.  

Do any google search and you can find a multitude of lists outlining signs and symptoms.   But the truth is that most people do not understand they have a mental health condition until years after symptoms present.   Stigma is the most common barrier to seeking treatment.    Many feel something may be off but they may be able to simply change their diet, exercise more, or try harder at the task at hand and things will get better.   It is sadly infrequent that families will have the crucial dialogue about family history and things to be on the look out for and proactive wellness checks with medical professionals.

For our family we discuss signs and symptoms openly and frequently (as in daily sometimes.).   We know that given our pre-disposition to mental health issues we need to follow our treatment plans (therapy, medication, diet, exercise, and quality sleep coupled with resiliency tools.).  Going to a weekly therapy appointment and sharing this with others should be no different than telling someone "I'm going for a haircut"" or ""I'm visiting my dentist for a filling."

I've spoken with hundreds of family members and individuals living with mental illnesses including co-occurring addictions.   Most say hindsight is 20/20 (perfect vision when looking back at their lives.)

50% of us will have a diagnosable mental health condition in our life-time.  

20% of us at minimum live with mental illness.

50% will start showing symptoms by age 14; 75% will show symptoms by age 24.

Psychosis can cause long-term cognition issues which is why we need to treat it with the same sort of urgency as treating a stroke.  This is to say promptly.  In today's model some wait several weeks, months or even years before getting evaluated and by then our loved ones have lost a great deal of gray and white matter.   An anti-psychotic medication acts like a wrapper around the brain to prevent further damage.   This is absolutely crucial for those with schizophrenia, bi-polar, and depression with psychotic features.   Psychosis comes in many forms and must be taken seriously.  

Here are some common signs and symptoms.

Excessive worrying or fear

Feeling excessively sad or low

Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning (example: not being able to follow a simple situation comedy on TV or having to read and re-read the same section of a book to understand it.)

Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria

Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger (depression often manifests itself as anger ironically.)

Avoiding friends and social activities (withdrawing is a very common sign)

Difficulties understanding or relating to other people

Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy

Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite

Changes in sex drive

Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)

Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)

Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs (this is a very serious sign of an underlying mental health issue.). Most people living with addiction actually are living with a treatable mental health condition but do not realize it.

Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)

Thinking about suicide

Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress

An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance.  Extreme body image concerns. 

The most important step is ""sincere, uncritical, acceptance"" of yourself and the symptoms you are feeling.    Visit NAMI.org and learn signs/symptoms and find a local support group.  If you are caring for a loved one that may be living with a mental health condition then attend a NAMI Family Support Group.   They are available across the nation.

Do your family tree detailing history of mental illness and addictive behaviors.  Make copies of this for your doctor and other mental health treatment providers.

Visit your PCP (Primary Care Physician) and share your family history proactively expressing concerns about how you are feeling.   Be proactive in seeking help.

Make an appointment with a licensed mental health professional.   Get on that waitlist for a psychiatrist and do see a tele-psychiatrist as an option if the wait is longer than desired.  

There are many great on-line apps for maintaining wellness.  But in times of un-wellness we need to proactively seek treatment promptly.  Many individuals benefit from therapy and medication.    It is not a sign of a weakness but rather a strength to seek treatment and maintain recovery.    Commit to taking care of your mental wellness!   Life is beautiful with all its sticky challenges.  Why not live well and thrive?

Ipek Aykol
Ipek Aykol
LMFT

www.ipekaykol.com

There is a strong connection between mental health and physical health. As much as physical health problems can lead to mental distress, mental health conditions may impair physical health as well. Research proves the strong mind and body connection and how certain mental conditions impact the intensity of physical symptoms.It is easier for individuals to point out to physical difficulties they are experiencing and most mental health symptoms are often neglected until they impair an individual life’s at a significant level. Being aware of mental health conditions and symptoms may help individuals identify their problems early on and help them seek help before their problems build up and impair their life completely. 

When an individual is suffering from a mental illness, their functioning in the following areas start  regressing: social, career, academic, interpersonal relationships, health, hygiene and overall life quality. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) identifies the common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents as the following: 

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Physical symptoms not related to medical conditions
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance 

The first step is to get names of mental health professionals from your doctor, social network, online or insurance, If your workplace has an employee assistance program, it also can provide help. If you have insurance, Medicaid or Medicare; you can refer to your directory. If you have no coverage and low income, you can ask your community mental health center about lower-cost services. 

6/4/2018 4:00:00 AM
Kollin Lephart
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Kollin Lephart is a Digital Marketing Consultant for 12 Steps Marketing, a digital marketing agency that specializes in building, growing, and nurturing professional relationships. After much research on health and wellness, she's become an advocate for everything wellness and wishes everyone great success on your own we...
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