Taking Care of Your Mental Health

NAMI, otherwise known as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is an organization that works to educate the public on mental wellness while providing support. Last month, mental health awareness issues were highlighted since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, bringing people together to improve the lives of all Americans affected by mental health concerns. Did you know 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime?

Here are 5 common warning signs indicating that a loved one may have a mental health condition. Keep in mind, there's really no easy way to know if someone is suffering from a mental illness or if the symptoms are revealing a physical illness instead. Always trust and consult with your primary care doctor in the event you notice a change in behavior.

  1. Feelings of sadness and/or extreme mood changes. All of us have times in our lives when we are sad and feeling hopeless, whether it's a death in the family or recurring bad news and events. People with mental illness may exhibit the signs of sadness often and with little reason. Additionally, you may notice extreme "highs and lows" that seem uncontrollable.
  2. Avoidance of friends and social activities. Is your normally outgoing friend not returning your calls? Have you not heard or seen from a beloved friend or family member in a while? Your once very happy and social friend may be suffering from mental health issues and/or depression.
  3. Changes in eating or sleeping habits. Increased hunger, lack of appetite, lack of sleep...all of these changes could indicate a physical health problem or a mental health problem. If the symptoms are on-going, seek medical assistance.
  4. Daily activities seem too hard to handle. If the long line at the dry cleaners or the traffic jam on the way to work causes too much stress, there may be more going on than you think. Again, everyone has bad days and even bad weeks. Pay attention to the behavior that doesn't seem to be getting any better and watch for any of the additional signs accompanying the inability to handle stress.
  5. Suicidal thoughts. If a loved one is talking about suicide or asking you about it, don't be afraid to reach out for additional help. Ending one's life is a serious indicator that your friend, loved one, or family member is struggling and has given up hope.

NAMI offers more warning signs and assistance at http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Know-the-Warning-Signs. If someone needs assistance now, contact the National Suicide Prevention line at 800-273-8255. Fortunately, there are many support and treatment options available today to anyone suffering from mental illness.