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Erasing Stigma: Mental Health Awareness Month


According to the World Health Organization, the estimated annual direct cost of mental health issues is $1 trillion. Pathways.com states that depression alone can cost employers up to $50 billion per year. The toll placed on family and friends by mental health is even greater. During Mental Health Awareness Month, we raise awareness to fight stigma, support those in need of help, and educate the public about mental health.


But I Don’t Want Anyone to Know…

So many live with mental health problems, but feel they have no place to go to get help. Why is that? It’s similar to the many women who are in situations where they feel trapped in verbally abusive relationships. What do we say when a friend tells us that their partner keeps telling them they are wrong, that they aren’t smart enough to understand, or that they need to follow their partner’s rules? When someone tells you they are having trouble putting one foot in front of the other, or they felt depressed or all alone, how do you respond?


For some reason, we easily respond to help the person with a broken leg, but not a broken life. I have a good friend, struggling with depression and anxiety. I called to get help and was told that it would be three months before he could be seen. Are you kidding me?


There are many resources that list the warning signs for us to help understand when people are struggling. There are many resources that define critical steps we can take to help those that are not sure how to help themselves. I have pulled just a few from the many resources that are out there.


Warning Signs2

  • Excessive (and/or obsessive) worry or fear

  • Feelings of loneliness, depression, stress, or hopelessness

  • Confused thinking or trouble concentrating and learning (‘brain fog’)

  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria and super anxiety attacks

  • Feeling overwhelmed ALL the time or MOST of the time

  • Avoiding family or friends, or not participating in social activities, or hobbies or other activities you used to enjoy

Action Steps

  • Treat your friend with kindness; you never know what someone is going through

  • Ensure they are surrounded by people that support them

  • Practice good coping skills for stress

  • Try to help your friend “quiet their mind”

  • Discuss realistic goals (with small steps) that they can achieve and feel good about

  • Break up your routine – structure is good, but a little change can give a different point of view

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol

  • GET HELP


Take a moment and listen to someone who is trying to tell you they are “not doing well.” Encourage your employer to have a proactive employee wellness program that reaches out to the employee, instead of waiting for the employee to come to them. To learn more about mental health awareness, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website at https://www.nami.org/home. Also remember, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline phone number is 988.


Sources

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2023). Warning Signs of Mental Illness. American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/warning-signs-of-mental-illness

  2. Advanced Psychiatry Associates. (2021, Dec 15). Recognizing the Early Signs of Mental Illness. Advanced Psychiatry Associates. https://advancedpsychiatryassociates.com/resources/blog/early-signs-of-mental-illness/

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