What is mental health? Mental health refers to a wide variety of mental health conditions or disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Some examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders and addictive behaviors. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time, but a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function. When it comes to teenagers, the National Alliance on Mental Illness states that one in five children ages 13-18 have or will have a mental health condition. 70% of youth in the Juvenile Justice System have a mental illness. 90% of those who died by suicide- which is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24- had an underlying mental illness.
Signs and symptoms of mental illness. These can vary depending on the disorder, circumstances, and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Signs and symptoms include feeling sad, reduced ability to concentrate, excessive fears or worries, extreme feeling of guilt, and extreme mood changes. Symptoms can also include withdrawal from friends and activities, significant tiredness, low energy, detachment from reality, inability to cope with daily problems, major changes in eating habits and more.
Stigma around mental health issues. Some people suffer in silence because they fear the label that may be put on them. Unfortunately, this can be reality. We believe stigma stems from a lack of education and awareness. Poor mental health is not a visible illness, so people sometimes dismiss it. We shouldn’t be judgmental when a person with mental illness is reluctant to get help, has low self-esteem or acts out through bad behavior. These are all harmful effects directly associated with the stigma around mental health. Let’s do better. Learn about mental illness and stop putting labels on those in need of help.
As a parent, what can you do? If your loved one is showing symptoms of a mental health disorder, sit them down and have an open and honest conversation with them about your concerns and refer them to a professional. We may not be able to make them go to a professional, but we can be there for them to give them the support they need. Reach out to your health insurance provider, primary care doctor or local mental health authority such as Central Alabama Wellness. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. You are not alone. We are here to help you at Compact. For more information on this topic, visit us on Facebook @Compact or call 205-605-1827. †