An individual’s mental health, how one thinks, feels and acts, can change over time due to factors like workload, stress and work-life balance. With 1 in 5 American adults experiencing mental illness each year, it is apparent that mental health matters. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but here at Victra, we believe prioritizing mental health is essential year-round. During the pandemic people’s mental health took a toll. Feelings of loneliness and isolation contributed to increased anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. Although record levels of anxiety and depression were being reported, the mental burden of the pandemic has fortunately enabled more transparency and empathy around mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Month was first celebrated in 1949. It was commemorated by the Mental Health America organization, which was then known as the National Committee for Mental Hygiene and then later as the National Mental Health Association before it got its current name. The association was founded by Clifford Whittingham Beers. Beers, who was born in 1876 in Connecticut, was one of five children in his family who all suffered from mental illness and psychological distress. All of them also went on to spend time at mental institutions and it was from his hospital admittance that he discovered that the mental health field had a notorious reputation for malpractice, maltreatment, and immense bias.
Beers went on to author A Mind That Found Itself, which is a bestseller even today. Gaining popularity and support from medical professionals, Beers founded the National Committee for Mental Hygiene. Beers and his colleagues at the association wanted to find ways to make sure that mental health patients not only received the right care but also did not feel alone in their fight against mental diseases.
Click here to read the 2022 Proclamation on National Mental Health Awareness Month from President Biden
Each year in mid-March Mental Health America releases a toolkit of materials to guide preparation for outreach activities during Mental Health Awareness Month. During the month of May, MHA, its affiliates, and other organizations interested in mental health conduct a number of activities which are based on a different theme each year. The Back to Basics theme was chosen for 2022 with the goal of providing foundational knowledge about mental health and information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern.
What is Mental Illness?
Mental Illnesses are brain-based conditions that affect thinking, emotions, and behaviors. Since we all have brains – having some kind of mental health problem during your life is really common. For people who have mental illnesses, their brains have changed in a way in which they are unable to think, feel, or act in ways they want to. For some, this means experiencing extreme and unexpected changes in mood – like feeling more sad or worried than normal. For others, it means not being able to think clearly, not being able to communicate with someone who is talking to them, or having bizarre thoughts to help explain weird feelings they are having.
Unlike other general physical illness, mental illnesses are related to problems that start in the brain. The brain is an organ. Just like any other organs in our body, it can experience changes based on life experiences like stress, trauma, lack of sleep, and nutrition. Generally, when someone has a mental illness, something has changed in such a way that their brain and the way that it works has also changed. Having negative feelings and thoughts does not mean you have a mental illness. To be diagnosed with a mental illness, the negative changes in thinking and emotions have to:
- Seriously affect your ability to do things you want to do (what doctors call Pervasive)
- Stick around for longer than it should (what doctors call Persistent)
Negative feelings can come from life changes, like moving to a new place, losing friends, or grief to name a few. These changes in mood are not mental illness – this is just dealing with life circumstances. For some people, extreme life circumstances (like trauma or significant stress) that are not addressed can develop in a more serious problem – a mental illness.
Mental Health Facts
- 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience a mental health condition each year.
- Mental illness affects more than 50 million people in the U.S. Visit nami.org/act4mh and sign the petition and take action to improve mental health care.
- 17% of youth aged 6–17 experience a mental health condition. Visit nami.org/v4mh and take the pledge to Vote4MentalHealth to support youth mental health.
- 19% of U.S. adults, an estimated 48 million people, have an anxiety disorder.
- The suicide rate has increased 35% since 1999.
- Annually, mental illness affects:
- 14% of Asian adults
- 17% of African American/Black adults
- 17% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander adults
- 18% of Hispanic/Latinx adults
- 19% of American Indian/Alaska Native adults
- 36% of multiracial adults
- 47% of LGBTQIA+ adults
How to Observe
Take care of yourself- Life has numerous ups and downs. Some are solvable but others not so much. When your mental health acts up, seek the right treatment and make yourself better because, after all, life has much more to offer than just pain and suffering.
Take care of your loved ones- Check up on your friends and family. Many times, all people need is a shoulder to cry on and/or an ear to listen. Support and encourage them if they are being treated for any mental problems.
Talk about mental health- One of the best ways to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month is by talking about it with your peers. The more you talk about it, the more normalized it will become. This is one of the aims of the month as the stigma attached to mental health has led to countless delays in treatment and research on the matter.
Connecting Technology to Stress Management
Take a Break!
Take a Break! is a free app that helps you quickly recharge. Listen to a 7-minute Work Break or 13-minute Stress Relief recording with or without music or nature sounds.
The mental wellness space is predominantly white. Because of this, many apps and other mental health resources don’t take into account the unique experiences facing people of color. That’s why the founders of Shine set out to create an app specifically geared toward people of color and women.
MindShift uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to teach relaxation skills, help develop new ways of thinking, and suggest healthy activities. It has a thought journal, chill zone with guided meditations, and a “quick relief” tool if you’re feeling overwhelmed in the moment.
Additional Resources for Support
No matter what kind of mental health problem someone is facing, it is always possible to get better. If you think you or someone you know is experiencing a mental illness, try to find any kind of support earlier than later. Like other illness, treating mental illnesses early can help you get better faster. The only way to enjoy life to the fullest and experience all its wonders is if we take care of ourselves, mentally and physically.
|Resource *resources for those enrolled on Victra’s medical plans||Contact Information|
|Employee Assistance Program||1-800-538-3543 EAP Website|
|BCBS Medical Plans*||1-800-359-2422 BCBS Behavioral Health Resources|
|HealthJoy Teletherapy* Provides access to confidential virtual therapy that can address depression, anxiety, trauma and other mental health concerns.||Access via the HealthJoy app New users can download the HealthJoy app from the App Store or Google Play then visit https://mygroups.healthjoy.com/membership to activate your account.|
|National Suicide Prevention Lifeline The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.||1-800-273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/|