This year’s theme for Mental Health Month is: “Life with Mental Illness.” For the past 65 years, each May, Mental Health America has provided mental health education to millions of people. Unlike other health conditions, mental illness often begins early in life and by age 14, 50 percent of those later diagnosed have experienced signs and symptoms (National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Mental health disorders are common in the United States and over 25 percent of the general population reported experiencing problems with mood, stress or anxiety over the past year. Unlike other chronic health conditions, those experiencing mental health conditions often wait years before they seek help. When experiencing symptoms of respiratory distress, high blood pressure or high blood sugar, people are much more likely to seek medical attention.
However, in a recent survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), 69 percent of adults indicated that they would hide their emotional distress from coworkers, 38 percent said they would hide their problems from friends and family. Even though the Affordable Care Act has expanded access to medical and mental health services, 21 percent of those experiencing mental distress would delay seeking treatment for fear that others may find out. SAMHSA is committed to raising awareness in order to increase the number of those seeking help.
Both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have taken note of the importance of mental wellbeing. At the White House National Conference on Mental Health President Obama observed, “Too many Americans who struggle with mental health illnesses are still suffering in silence rather than seeking help, and we need to see to it that men and women who would never hesitate to go see a doctor if they had a broken arm or came down with the flu, that they have that same attitude when it comes to their mental health.” He also said that recovery is possible and highlighted the importance of friends and family in the healing process.
First Lady Michelle Obama has also become a spokesperson to reduce the stigma of mental illness, and during a presentation at the launch of “The Campaign to Change” said, “It’s time to tell everyone dealing with a mental health issue that they are not alone, and that getting support isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”
The Campaign to Change is a national organization whose goal is to change the culture of mental health in America so that those in need will receive the care and support that they need. They also promote mental and physical wellbeing for all.
In order to highlight the special mental health needs of youth, the first week in May has been designated Children’s Mental Health Awareness week. The Theme for 2016 is “Finding Help Finding Hope,” and the focus is on identifying ways that the community can increase access for youth experiencing mental health concerns through education.
On April 1, 2016, the mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, and the Minneapolis City Council, acknowledging green as the designated color for mental health awareness, passed a resolution that in recognition of Children’s Mental Health Day, the I-35 Bridge will be lit green on May 5, 2016. This resolution acknowledges the contribution that the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has made in improving the lives of children and families through promotion of mental health education.
NAMI has an initiative called “Ending the Silence” and they are available to present mental health information to middle and high school students in MN to promote good mental health in youth. By providing support and education to families, schools and the community, we can provide early intervention and reduce risks associated with untreated mental health problems. Risks include suicide and poor school performance, high rates of high school drop-out, incarceration, and homelessness.
The second leading cause of death for those ages 10-24 is suicide. Of youth in detention centers, it is estimated that 65-70 percent have diagnosable mental health disorders according to mentalhealthamerica.net.
Have the conversation with loved ones and friends if you suspect they are experiencing mental health problems. By simply asking “Are you okay,” you can start the discussion, showing you are concerned and that you care.
For additional information, please contact your primary care physician, your mental health provider or Dr. Golden, director of behavioral health, NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center at 612-543-2705.
For more information about alcohol or drug abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (samhsa.gov) via Internet or by phone at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or contact Dr. Golden or your primary care provider at NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, 1313 Penn Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411.
Deirdre Annice Golden, Ph.D., LP, is director of Behavioral Health for NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center Behavioral Health Clinic, 1313 Penn Ave. N. She welcomes reader responses to Deirdre.Golden@co.hennepin.mn.us, or call 612-543-2705.