May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is an opportunity to raise awareness and educate ourselves about mental illness. Let’s pause and take time to learn some important facts about mental health disorders.

Did you know that mental health disorders are…

1. Common and treatable. You are not alone. About 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth experience mental illness in a given year. The majority of those receiving treatment do get better and go on to lead successful lives.

2. As serious as physical illness. Would you walk around with a broken leg? Or not treat a fever? Even though mental health conditions do not always display physical signs, they are just as serious and life-threatening. Untreated mental illness can lead to poor quality of life including lost days of work or school. They can also increase ones risk of substance abuse and suicide. Be brave and get the help you need.

3. Not your fault. They are not due to a character flaw or cured by “being tough”. Mental illness has a variety of causes including genetics, environmental, biological, trauma and stress. In some cases the cause is unknown. Do not blame yourself if your usual coping skills are no longer enough. This might be an indication that it is time to seek help from a professional.

4. Associated with warning signs. Mental health conditions can negatively impact one’s thoughts, feelings and behavior. Depending on the condition, you might notice a decline in performance at work or school; challenges in interpersonal relationships; changes in sleep, appetite, energy, and concentration; and social withdrawal.

5. Not only treated with pills. Psychiatric medications are not the only way to treat mental illness. It is important to utilize a variety of healing modalities on your road to recovery. This includes psychotherapy, lifestyle modification including nutrition, dietary supplementation, sleep and physical activity. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, mindfulness, and spirituality can also be incorporated into an overall wellness plan.

If you or someone you know might be suffering from a mental health problem, there is help. You can speak to your primary care provider, a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a therapist.

When in crisis contact 988, which is the national suicide and crisis lifeline that is available 24/7 for confidential support. Remember, you are not alone.

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