Starting Conversations about Mental Health

 

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May marks Mental Health Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and reducing stigma. To start our month-long conversation about mental health, we started asking some questions:

Who is affected by mental health disorders?

Millions of people in the United States alone deal with mental health disorders. Yet less than half receive help. Chances are you know someone with a mental illness or someone who is affected by a person struggling with a mental illness.

According to recent studies, adults between the ages of 18 to 25 make up the highest percentage of people struggling with mental illness, but compared to other age groups, they also report the lowest rates of seeking treatment.

Why don’t more people seek treatment for mental health?

One of the main hurdles preventing people from seeking necessary treatment is the stigma surrounding mental health. Many people feel their mental health is not as important as their physical health or feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit they have a mental problem. As a result, some ignore their mental health concerns while others try to treat their symptoms by themselves.

What are some signs of a mental health disorder?

The signs of each mental health disorder are unique to that disorder, but here are a few to look out for:

  • Extreme changes in mood and behavior
  • Changes in work or school performance
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Prolonged feelings of anger or sadness
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Struggles with carrying out day-to-day tasks

What are some examples of mental health disorders?

Depression and anxiety are the two most prevalent mental health disorders in the United States; however, many Americans also live with obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorders, among others. The severity of mental health disorders also varies by individual.

Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Nearly 80 percent of people with mental health disorders have substance use disorders. In an effort to cope with the symptoms from their mental health disorder, many people turn to drugs and alcohol. The most common substance people turn to for help is alcohol. However, alcohol and many other drugs can exacerbate symptoms.

How can we reduce stigma?

In the past few years, there has been a change in the conversation around mental health. Mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, have garnered more attention due to more celebrities, such as Mariah Carey, sharing their battles. If we continue asking questions and normalizing conversations about mental illness, then we can continue investing in and improving treatment for mental health.

Blog Series for Parents: Know the Signs

Teen ProblemsIn our last blog series post we discussed delayed adulthood and substance use disorder. This post raised a question: How do I know if my child has a substance use disorder?

There is statistical evidence that teens are getting involved in drug use as early as 6th to 8th grade (12–14 years old). “In many instances the parents become aware of the substance use long after it has begun and circumstances have grown more threatening” said Katie Stout, Executive Director at Gateway Carbondale.

Parents need to know the signs of substance use disorder and take immediate action before the problem grows worse.

 

The signs:

  • Frequently tired
  • Depressed
  • Hostile behavior
  • Withdrawn
  • Change in friends
  • Neglect with grooming or hygiene
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Change in eatin
  • g habits
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Weight changes
  • Deteriorating relationship with family and friends

Many signs may be overlooked as parents may believe them to be a normal part of growing up. “I encourage parents to discuss their concerns with a physician, school guidance counselor or substance use disorder treatment provider. These professionals can help you determine if there is reason for concern,” said Katie Stout.

Parents seeking treatment for their child can reach out to Gateway Foundation at 877.505.HOPE (4673) or visit recovergateway.org. Be sure to look for our next blog in the series on the topic of choosing treatment close to home.

Alcohol Doesn’t Mix Well with Your Body

Do you know alcohol can be toxic to your heart? Over the longer term, alcohol abuse can lead to high blood pressure, enlarged and weakened heart, congestive heart failure and stroke. Binge drinking can be associated with atrial fibrillation, a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. If the heart’s components don’t work together properly it can even lead to a stroke, advises the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The scary thing is that you may not even feel the symptoms.

All of these are reasons why your doctor encourages you not to drink alcohol. You can take care of your heart through good nutrition, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.

Other health issues associated with alcohol abuse include:

  • Alcohol abuse is related to cirrhosis, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FAS), malnutrition, ulcers, hepatitis, among other things.
  • Poorer outcomes from surgical procedures due to alcohol’s effects on the person’s health, malnutrition, and the depressive effects of alcohol on the body.
  • Heavy drinking affects the body’s ability to stop bleeding because the liver has difficulty producing the proteins that cause clotting.
  • Alcohol doesn’t mix well with many prescription drugs.
  • Alcohol abuse increases the risks of cancer.
  • Alcohol abuse can result in brain damage, slower thinking, unsteadiness and slurred speech.

If you are concerned about someone who may be abusing alcohol, Gateway Foundation can help. Contact Gateway to arrange a free and confidential consultation at 877-505- HOPE (4673) or learn more about Gateway Foundation at RecoverGateway.org. Renew hope today.

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