May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to shedding light on the importance of mental health, recognizing the signs of mental health issues, and promoting strategies for maintaining mental well-being. At CapRock Health, we are committed to providing resources and support to our community, Including those with mental illness.

Understanding Mental Health Awareness

Although mental health is often discussed as though it is significantly different than our physical health, it’s more accurate to consider mental illness as being the same as other illnesses.  Most mental illness involves chemical malfunctions of the brain and the emotions it creates.  It may be more difficult to conceptualize something like depression when compared with something like a heart problem, but both categories of illness are mostly the same in concept. 

Brains generate our thoughts and emotions, which aren’t physical, but brains are very much physical organs, similar to all the other organs of our bodies.  And brains are exquisitely complicated with numerous, delicate processes required for them to function correctly.  So, it should not be surprising that they are prone to illness like every other organ system.

Understanding this can reduce the stigma and fear of judgment that prevents many patients from seeking treatment for their mental health.  It can also increase hope that mental health problems can be treated, similarly to how we treat high blood pressure or diabetes.  Furthermore, it is increasingly clear that mental illness impacts or leads to many physical illnesses. Therefore, awareness of the importance of mental health and tending to our mental health can  improve our thoughts, emotions and physical wellbeing.

Recognizing the Signs of Mental Health Issues

Early identification of mental health issues can lead to better outcomes. Some common signs to look out for include the following:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
  • Problems with relationships
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Unexplained physical ailments
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Excessive fears or worries
  • Hearing or seeing things that others don’t

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to know that, as with most physical diseases, professional help is available and effective.

Tips for Maintaining Mental Well-Being

Taking care of your mental health is essential for overall wellness. Here are some tips to help maintain good mental health:

  1. Stay Active: Regular physical activity can improve your mood and reduce anxiety.  This is particularly true of physical activity outdoors in green space.  At this time, no medication has been shown to more rapidly and effectively improve mood than physical activity in green spaces.
  2. Connect with Others: Building strong, supportive relationships can help you feel connected and understood and provide purpose.  Family and good friends can also provide assistance when you need it.  Conversely, serving others and being involved in community activities and groups improve our emotions.
  3. Manage Stress: Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.  Excess stress and anxiety disorders are some of the most treatable of the mental illnesses.
  4. Get Enough Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to support your mental and physical health.
  5. Eat a Balanced Diet: Nutrition plays a vital role in mental health. Ensure you eat a variety of healthy foods.  Research continues to strengthen our understanding of the connection between our intestines and our brains.  Eating a mostly plant-based diet, such as the mediterranean diet, benefits mental health.
  6. Avoid Alcohol and Recreational Drugs:  These substances work by altering the delicate balance of chemicals in our brains and contribute to mental health problems.  Even “benign” drugs such as marijuana, aren’t really bening.  For example, those adolescents who use marijuana have a significantly increased risk of developing psychotic disorders that are often permanent.
  7. Seek Professional Help: Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional if you need support.  As with everything in life, experts are our best source for personalized, effective recommendations and treatments.

Final Thoughts

Mental Health Awareness Month is a crucial time to reflect on the importance of mental health, recognize the signs of mental health issues, and take steps to maintain our well-being. By fostering a supportive and informed community, we can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage those in need to seek help.