A Cry for Help: Recognizing the Signs – National Mental Health Month



The words “I am not okay” are spoken with honesty; yet, this one warning may be placated with gentle words such as, “I can figure this out!” Shoulders will ease from tension, and the worry will soon dissipate days and weeks beyond.  We want to believe our loved ones are truly okay, but the reality is the words “mental health” has a stigma of negativity.  No one wants to admit they are affected by a trauma impacting emotional and physical abilities.  It takes courage, a willingness to identify the problem, and surrendering in a plea for help.  One in five adults will experience a mental health condition; however, everyone is affected by mental illness through a relationship, whether it’s family, friend, or colleague.  Recognizing the symptoms through “silent screams” is one way to determine if help is needed, and what must be done.

Anxiety Disorders:  Approximately 18% of Americans, roughly 40 million adults, and 8% of children and teenagers experience an anxiety disorder.  While a person may experience one or more of the symptoms – apprehension or dread, restlessness or feeling jumpy, a pounding heart and shortness of breath, upset stomach or frequent urination – they commonly have fear or worry in situations that are not threatening.

Generalized and Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Phobias all fall under the category of “Anxiety Disorder.”  There are different types of solutions that range from stress and relaxation techniques to cognitive behavioral therapy to medications.

An anxiety disorder cannot be considered a mild condition. As symptoms increase, a person may experience depression or difficulty sleeping, develop an eating disorder or self-medicating with either drugs or alcohol.

Bipolar Disorder:  Usually beginning at the age of 25, bipolar disorder affects a person’s mood, energy, and the ability to think clearly through dramatic shifts.  These high and low moods are known as mania (moods can rapidly become more unpredictable, behaving impulsively or making reckless decisions) and depression, quite different from the mood swings most people experience.  Untreated, the symptoms can worsen, which implies long episodes of mania or depression, and may include hallucinations or delusions.  Help can be given with psychotherapy and medications.  With early identification and treatment, a person can live a balanced life.

Depression:  The struggles of depression are real, a feeling like trudging through molasses without energy or appetite, and desiring nothing more than to sleep, or perhaps not being able to sleep at all.   Depression affects roughly 16 million people. A working treatment plan, which may include a defined therapy, exercise, medications, and perhaps meditation and nutritional assistance as well, can be valuable solutions to ease the level of depression.

Eating Disorders:  One early sign is an attempt to cope with overwhelming feelings and painful emotions through the preoccupation of food and weight. The condition can cause serious emotional and physical problems that may lead to serious medical complications or suicidal tendencies.  It helps to recognize the three different types of eating disorders.

  1. Anorexia: A person will deny themselves food and refuse to eat.  Practicing self-starvation, they will either purge the food or exercise to the point of exhaustion.
  2. Bulimia: While large amounts of food will be consumed, the cycle will be linked to vomiting, use of laxatives, or excessive exercise.
  3. Binge Eating Disorder, BED: Eating will occur when the person is not hungry or uncomfortably full.Afterward, a feeling of embarrassment, guilt, or depression will occur.  A BED disorder is not connected to purging.

Solutions are not simple.  Sometimes, it will take a lifelong understanding of talk therapy, medication, and nutritional counseling and monitoring.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:

A traumatic event can occur as early as one year old and have lasting effects on a person’s mental health, which becomes known as PTSD. Most are affected by this condition without a diagnosis; yet, once diagnosed, 37% are classified as “severe symptoms.”   Recurring memories or flashbacks, which may appear as bad dreams or intrusive thoughts, feeling anxious and depressed, and have sudden outbursts of anger are all symptoms.  PTSD is associated with depression and anxiety, and substance use disorder.  Solutions such as therapy, self-management strategies, and medications can lessen symptoms, but not eliminate them.

May is National Mental Health month.  It may be father-in-law or mother, sister or best friend, long time co-worker or neighbor, who can receive help.  We must start listening, and walking with them during that first giant step; perhaps, that someone is you!


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