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May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health: A state of well-being in which a person realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Mental Illness: Mental Health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behavior (or some combination of those) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental health condition in their lives and, of those, only 41 percent will receive mental health services. Additionally, in a given year, 1 in 25 U.S. adults will experience a serious mental illness that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Of these adults, 62.9 percent will receive mental health services.

Serious mental illness costs Americans $192.2 billion in lost earnings per year. Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third-most-common causes of hospitalization in the United States for those between the ages of 18 and 44.

A lack of understanding when it comes to mental illness can leave sufferers feeling isolated. According to the CDC, only 25 percent of those affected with mental illness feel that people are sympathetic toward their struggles.
Many say they feel stigmatized by friends, family, strangers and the media for their illnesses. Because the media have a large impact on the public’s perception of mental illness, the American Psychiatric Association has created a rubric of preferred mental-health terminology in an effort to reduce that stigma, and increase understanding and acceptance.

Mental conditions, whether depression, anxiety or more-serious disorders, are almost always treatable. Psychotherapy and medication are most often prescribed for mental illnesses, and people who take advantage of both types of treatment tend to feel better, faster, than those who take medication only.

Mental Health Awareness Month is a time to learn more about these issues. It’s also a good time to talk to a mental health professional, or your doctor, if you or someone you know needs help.

As former President Bill Clinton has said, “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.”