Nearly one in five Americans have a mental illness, which is why this month it’s important to be aware of our mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Month should help us to talk openly about our mental health and how we can work together to overcome the stigma around mental health, said Travis Mickelson, MD, medical director of mental health Integration at Intermountain Healthcare.
The World Health Organization said it best when they defined health as a complete state of physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not just the absence of infirmity or disease.
“I think that really speaks volumes that we’re talking about someone’s wellbeing. It’s not separating physical health from social health from mental health. They all impact one another. We know that people who have poor mental health, tend to not take very good care of themselves physically,” said Dr. Mickelson.
“And vice versa, those who experience poor physical health are at greater risk of developing some sort of mental illness, whether that be anxiety, depression, or something more significant,” he added.
There has been a stigma that addressing or openly talking about mental health is a sign of weakness, or a character flaw. Even that it’s something that somebody should just be able to snap out of anytime they can. That mentality, when not addressed correctly, leads people to stay quiet and not address a real and serious health problem.
Dr. Mickelson said that talking to someone about stressors, your daily life, is very beneficial. He recommends that people reach out to loved ones if you notice that you have started to lose interest in your usual activities or have been sad for several days in the past week or two.
“Allowing yourself to process negative emotions will actually make you stronger in the long run. Humans aren’t robots,” Dr. Mickelson said. “We’re meant to feel sad, angry, irritated, and other negative emotions along with the positive ones. When those feelings arise, pay attention to them. Learn from them. Just don’t let them control you. Learning to regulate your emotions and tolerating the distress related to negative emotions are two of the best skills for building resilience.”
There have also been new feelings and emotions that have been created by the yearlong pandemic. Especially now as we see mask mandates lifting, businesses allowing fewer restrictions, and the CDC saying that vaccinated people can return to normal.
“Some of us might find anxious moments in removing the mask at a store, or going back out with friends,” Dr. Mickelson said. “We need to be compassionate with ourselves and with others as this has been a traumatic time for most of us. We can be patient with each other.”
Dr. Mickelson said that if you are not completely ready to return to normal – go slow.
That also means it takes a level of compassion and understanding from everyone. Perhaps if someone see another still wearing a mask when they don’t feel they need it, don’t call them out. Because we don’t know the trauma of that person – perhaps they lost a loved one to COVID or dealt with the illness themselves.
“This will take time. We have to remember that over 500,000 people have died from this pandemic in this country alone. That is a lot of hurting loved ones and we need compassion,” Dr. Mickelson said.
If you want to speak to someone, you can call Intermountain’s Behavioral Health Navigation Line at 833-442-2211. Behavioral Health Navigation Services is a new service provided by Intermountain and designed to help the community find the resources that they need.
The Intermountain Behavioral Health Navigation services is a singular phone number where you can call in and speak with caregivers in our organization to be directed to the right service, and as needed scheduled with an appointment, or referred to Intermountain’s Behavioral Health Connect Care, which is a new service virtual service working to address needs for people or the loved ones in real-time.
To learn more go to Intermountain Healthcare.
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