Your Mental Health Matters From the Expert May 11, 2020 By: Dr. Kindra Perry, Outpatient Mental Health Clinical Director A person’s mental health is made up of biological, psychological, and social factors. Biological factors may include a person’s genetics, physical health, and temperament. Psychological factors may include someone’s self-esteem, ability to cope, and social skills. Lastly, social factors may include an individual’s family circumstances, their relationships with peers and family, or places where they are social. Taking care of your mental health is always important, but even more so during these unprecedented times. Anytime we feel a loss of control, it is completely normal to have feelings of fear and anxiety. Other common feelings may include sadness, anger, confusion, hypersensitivity, and grief. During these times of social distancing and uncertainty, individuals with preexisting anxiety, depression and other mental health illnesses are at an increased risk for symptoms to worsen. Mental illness is a health condition that may affect a person’s thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors, and is typically associated with distress and/or problems with doing the things you normally are able to do. Mental illness is common: 1 in 5 adults in the United States will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetimes. Of those, 1 in 12 will have a substance use disorder, and approximately 4% will have a serious mental illness (American Psychiatric Association 2020). Serious mental illness is a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that results in significant impairment that markedly interferes with key life activities. Some serious mental illnesses include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s important to note that mental illness is treatable; a majority of individuals with mental illness continue to function in their daily lives. Mental illness is a medical condition, just like diabetes or heart disease. What is a “normal” amount of anxiety or depression? We’re human and we all experience a wide range of emotions. It’s completely normal to have moments or periods of time where we worry more than normal, or feel sad or withdrawn based on our stressors and experiences. We know it’s a normal amount of depression or anxiety when: These feelings are time-limited. When we’re able to continue doing the things we normally do i.e. responsibilities at work/school, maintaining relationships, completing daily tasks and obligations. What are common symptoms of mental illness? In general, a person will most likely have difficulties or changes with doing the things they are normally able to do. This could include changes at work or school, trouble maintaining social relationships, and/or struggling to complete daily tasks. Two of the most common mental health conditions include depression and anxiety. Depression Symptoms include a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure lasting at least 2 weeks. Additional symptoms may include: lack of appetite or increased appetite, weight gain or weight loss, insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much), slowed body movements, fatigue/reduced energy levels, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, diminished ability to think or concentrate or make even minor decisions, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide or suicide plans or attempts. Anxiety Intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about a number of events or activities that a person finds difficult to control. With generalized anxiety disorder, these worries occur more days than not for at least 6 months. Common signs include restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension, and difficulty falling or staying asleep, or a restless, unsatisfying sleep. These feelings of anxiety interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, and are out of proportion to the actual danger. A person with anxiety may avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings. Panic attacks are repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that peak within minutes. What should I do if a family member or friend has signs of mental illness? Family members and friends can be an invaluable resource for individuals with a mental health condition. Let the person know you are concerned and that you are there to help. State your observations (i.e. “Lately I’ve noticed…”) and then listen to hear what they’re saying about their experience. Encourage them to seek help! If they are hesitant, offer to accompany them to their visit. While it may be uncomfortable, it’s important to ask if they’re having thoughts of suicide, as oftentimes you won’t know unless you ask. If they are, do not leave an actively suicidal person alone. If they are willing to go to the hospital you can safely transport them there, otherwise call 911. Where can I go to get help? If you think you may be experiencing signs of a mental health condition, know that there is help available! Most mental health problems can be treated with individual therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. There is no wrong door at Broadlawns – we’re here to help, even during a pandemic. We are proud to be offering virtual care visits to ensure your mental health needs continue to be met from the comfort and safety of your home. Individual therapy is available for patients of all ages, to learn more or to schedule a virtual care visit, call (515) 282-5695. The 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Line is available at (515) 282-5752. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please call 911 or visit the nearest hospital for immediate assistance. Broadlawns Medical Center offers the most comprehensive delivery system for mental health services in Central Iowa. Our professionals are dedicated to excellence, compassion, and personalized care. Learn more about our mental health services.