Check Internally this Mental Health Awareness Month

[avatar user=”dponieman” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=””]by Diego Ponieman M.D., M.P.H.[/avatar]

Each May, we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month to help those living with mental or behavioral health issues, and to reduce the stigma of mental disorders that so many of us, our friends and family experience every day. Mental health is a crucial component to our overall health, are common and should not be a source of shame.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, mental illness, especially depression, increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. Moreover, 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year, and 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness. And mental disorders occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

That is why it is important that we promote mental health wellness and prevention. Here are ten tips to help balance, or re-balance your mental health:

  1. Value yourself: Be sure to treat yourself with kindness and respect. Avoid self-criticism and make time for your hobbies and favorite activities.
  2. #Selfcare: Be sure to eat nutritious meals [visit our DASH page for more info], drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, and make time for physical activity!
  3. Positivity is key: People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Surround yourself with supportive family members and friends.
  4. Volunteer: Give yourself. Volunteering your time and energy to help someone else will make you feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need – and it’s a great way to meet new people.
  5. Learn how to deal with stress: Find ways to cope with stress, whether that is exercising, taking a nature walk, or cooking.
  6. Quiet your mind: Try meditation, mindfulness and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life.
  7. Set realistic goals: Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals.
  8. Break up the monotony: It’s good to have a daily routine, but a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule.
  9. Avoid alcohol and other drugs: Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs.

And most importantly:

  1. Get help when you need it: Seeking help is a sign of strength – not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective.

Without mental health we cannot be fully healthy. So, we at SOMOS hope you will join us this month to promote mental health and to #breakthestigma around mental illness.