May is Mental Health Month, a month dedicated to mental health awareness and removing its stigma. Your mental health affects how you think, feel, and act—as it relates to your emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
Myth: Mental illness won’t affect me.
Fact: Mental illness is common, affecting 43.8 million American adults in a given year.
Myth: Mental health issues only affect those who are weak.
Fact: Mental health has nothing to do with weakness—your mental health is influenced by different things, including brain chemistry, life experiences, trauma, and family history.
Myth: Once you have a mental health issue, you have it for life.
Fact: Many people with mental health issues recover completely after they seek help.
Early Warning Signs
It’s possible that you—or someone close to you—may be living with a mental health issue and not even know it. Check for these early warning signs:
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Experiencing unexplained aches and pains
- Having low energy or no energy
- Experiencing persistent thoughts or memories
- Drinking or smoking more than usual
- Eating too little or too much
- Feeling unusually scared, angry, confused, or forgetful
- Becoming combative with family or friends
Tips to Improve Your Mental Health
1. Stop and evaluate
Reflect on your own feelings and emotions, and gauge where your mental health stands. Maybe you’ve been too busy to recognize the warning signs. Take a quick and easy mental health screening to determine if you’re experiencing a mental health condition.
2. Tweak your routine
Your daily habits could be affecting your mental well-being. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, make time for physical activity, and ensure you’re getting enough sleep—these are all ways you can help maintain positive mental health.
3. Start the conversation
Talking about your mental health is beneficial. Try to start an open conversation with your family and friends—even your employer—about your mental health and any issues affecting it. Making connections and forming a strong support system can make a big difference.
4. Find meaning
In a TED Talk, author and journalist Emily Esfahani Smith discusses research that shows seeking meaning in life can be a more fulfilling long-term path than pursuing happiness—which is shown to negatively affect our well-being and make us unhappy. Smith focuses on four pillars of a meaningful life: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. Find out your primary source of meaning in life here.
5. Seek help
There are many resources available for those dealing with a mental health problem:
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline—1-800-662-4357: Individuals and families facing mental health disorders can call this free and confidential treatment referral and information service 24/7.
- Veterans Crisis Line—1-800-273-8255, Press 1: Veterans and their loved ones can call to receive confidential support 24/7.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1-800-273-8255: Those in suicidal crisis can call this national network of local crisis centers for free and confidential emotional support 24/7.