October 10 is World Mental Health Day
Millions of Americans deal with mental health issues. About 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness in a year, and 1 in twenty-five live with a serious mental illness — to say nothing of those who struggle with undiagnosed mental health concerns. This is why we’re observing World Mental Health Day, a day for international education, awareness, and action around mental health.
Mental health fast facts
- – Nearly 1 in 5 American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year
- – 46 percent of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life, and half of those people will develop conditions by the age of 14
- – Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in America
- – Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses
What do we mean when we say mental health?
The term “mental health” is loaded — it can encompass everything from dealing with diagnosed psychological disorders and overcoming trauma to daily stress management and cultivating an overall stronger sense of well-being. A 2015 article on defining put it like this:
“Mental health can be defined as the absence of mental disease or it can be defined as a state of being that also includes the biological, psychological or social factors which contribute to an individual’s mental state and ability to function within the environment.”
Regardless of whether we’re talking about the absence of mental disease or the pursuit of personal development, it’s a topic that needs attention. Care for people with diagnosed mental illness is critical; so is creating and sustaining mental wellness for all.
Wherever you fall in the broad spectrum of experience of mental health, taking care of your mental health includes looking after your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. This post provides some helpful information on how you can do that.
Find your mental health support system
Talk to your doctor
Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, make sure you’re talking to your doctor about how things are going. Significant changes in mood, cognition, sleeping patterns, etc. should be brought to your doctor’s attention so you can get the medical and psychological care you need.
Find your community
It’s also important to have a community that understands you. Having a sense of community has been associated with a decrease in psychological distress and a stronger sense of belonging. In fact, social connectedness has been proven to protect and promote mental health.
Hanging out with your friends and family, opening up to people you can trust, and finding a support group online or in-person for any issues you might be dealing with can help alleviate stress and improve your sense of wellbeing. Volunteer events (we have lots you can check out here in Asheville), hobby-based clubs, and other types of group activities are also great ways to make friends, make a difference, and support your mental health!
Get professional counseling
For dealing with situational challenges or even long-term mental illness, professional mental health support in the form of therapy or counseling can be a very productive tool. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are some traditional forms you can look into, and there are even convenient, affordable options online now — verywellmind.com is a resource that guides you through some of the top online mental health support providers based on the type of counseling you’re looking for and the topics you want to address.)
Support mental health by supporting physical health
Taking care of your body, including your brain, is an important component of physical health. For starters, make sure you’re sleeping well! Sleep problems are often a side effect of mental health concerns, but making an effort to protect and prioritize your sleep can help improve physical and mental functioning.
Lack of sleep is linked to several health conditions, including depression, and can worsen existing stress or mental illness. When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain’s ability to function properly is impaired, making it more difficult to think clearly, perform well, manage stress, overall having a negative impact on your general well-being.
Get nutrients and supplements for mental health
First, what you consume is important for mental health because a poor diet has been associated with increased depression and anxiety symptoms. Second, what you consume is important because you can actually boost your brain health (which supports mental health) and with certain nutrients and herbal supplements. While nutrient supplements have never been shown to prevent the development of mental illness, several have been studied for positive effects on mental health symptoms.
Supplements for mood and anxiety
- – Omega-3 fatty acids
- – S-adenosyl-methionine
- – St. John’s wort
- – N-acetyl cysteine
- – Zinc
- – Multivitamins
- – Kava
- – CBD
Scientific review of several studies shows that mindfulness meditation has shown evidence of improving psychological stresses including anxiety, depression, and pain. While meditation has become a more mainstream practice as people experience the benefits of reduced stress, improved energy, and mental calmness, many people are surprised to learn that mindfulness meditation has real effects on the body. Research has shown that meditation is linked to higher melatonin production, which not only helps to regulate sleep but also plays an important role in immune function.
Mindfulness is simple, and something you can easily incorporate in just a few moments a day. Mindfulness means being fully present, and mindful practices include paying close attention to your breathing, gratefulness journaling, positive self-talk, and taking the time to enjoy small things that bring you pleasure. It can help you regulate your nervous system and emotions, promote calmness, strengthen your sense of self, and support your overall mental health.
Goyal, Madhav et al. “Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357–368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018. Accessed online Sept. 17, 2021.
Manwell, Laurie A et al. “What is mental health? Evidence towards a new definition from a mixed methods multidisciplinary international survey.” BMJ open vol. 5,6 (2015) doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007079. Accessed online Sept. 16, 2021.
“Quick Facts and Statistics About Mental Health.” Mental Health America. https://mhanational.org/mentalhealthfacts. Accessed online Sept. 16, 2021.
Saeri, Alexander K et al. “Social connectedness improves public mental health: Investigating bidirectional relationships in the New Zealand attitudes and values survey.” Sage Journals. First published online August 12, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004867417723990 Accessed online Sept. 17, 2021.
Sarris, Jerome. “Nutrients and herbal supplements for mental health.” Australian Prescriber (2014). https://doi.org/10.18773/austprescr.2014.036. Accessed online Sept. 17, 2021.
Terry, Rachel et al. “The influence of sense of community on the relationship between community participation and mental health for individuals with serious mental illnesses.” Journal of community psychology vol. 47,1 (2019): 163-175. doi:10.1002/jcop.22115. Accessed online Sept. 17, 2021.