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Mental Health Awareness

Depression is a topic that is still often avoided, but it continues to show up everywhere; small towns, big cities, schools, government, churches and healthcare facilities. National Depression Screening Day began 26 years ago as an effort to reach individuals and connect them with support services. This year October 10 is National Depression Screening Day. Many people do not want to discuss it and struggle with the labels and definitions of a mental disorder. The diagnostic criteria continue to fluctuate, causing debate over diagnosis and treatment. Mental health and emotional well-being often become taboo, shameful and something to hide. While experiencing depression or having an eating disorder is not something that one needs to shout from the rooftops, they certainly doesn’t belong hidden away, ignored and never discussed.

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Mental health concerns are everywhere and impact everyone. One in five Americans experience a mental health issue each year and the rate of mental disorders in children age 6-17 is increasing yearly. These issues are not rare, just rarely talked about. There are over 200 classified forms of mental illness/disorders. These include mood disorders like depression, anxiety, eating and bipolar disorders. According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is defined as a “mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest…it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.” It is also known as Clinical Depression or Major Depressive Disorder. Depression is characterized by something called anhedonia, which is Greek for ‘without pleasure.’ It is believed to be a chemical deficiency that hinders our ability to experience pleasure. By deactivating that ability it activates the reverse, causing extreme sadness, poor concentration, sleep problems and loss of appetite. It also activates feelings of guilt, helplessness and hopelessness. Whatever the label, it is not just the blues, it’s not a weakness and you can’t just snap out of it. It can require long-term treatment with therapy and/or medication.

There are numerous possible causes of a mental health crisis like losing a loved one to death or divorce or some other traumatic event that results in significant life stress. Any of these can cause a dip in one’s emotional well-being but these can be much more complicated than simply being sad, mad or nervous. Mental health disorders can cause changes in the way people think or behave, which can result in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines. Simple things like brushing your teeth or showering can be overwhelming. The exact causes of these mental disorders are unknown but research is showing it to be a combination of biological differences, brain chemistry, hormones, psychological and environmental factors. People can also be genetically susceptible to mental disorders, but environment plays into this as well and while a susceptibility to a mental disorder can be inherited, one might never develop it.

Symptoms of depression may happen only once, but most sufferers typically have multiple episodes which can occur nearly every day, all day. Some things to be aware of include:

  • Sadness, tears, emptiness, hopelessness
  • Anger, frustration, irritability especially over trivial issues
  • Loss of interest in normal activities of daily living (ADL’s)
  • Sleep disruption, trouble concentrating or decision making
  • Feeling tired, lacking energy, anxious, agitated
  • Weight loss and/or appetite reduction
  • Suicidal thoughts, words, actions or attempts
  • Finally, even unexplained physical ailments like a backache or headache

Since depression often returns, WEB MD offers some tips to help stay balanced that include mental health screening, asking for help, managing sleep, proper nutrition, exercise, staying active and engaged with others and paying close attention to your mood. The misinformation spread about depression also can spread misunderstanding. In the media, depression is typically represented by 2 groups, the barely affected and the severely affected. Depression is rarely one or the other, instead it covers a spectrum affecting different people in different ways. One person may be struggling to get out of bed every day while another may be functioning but still experiencing struggles that may not be visible. These can both be symptoms of the same disorder.

Struggling is nothing to be ashamed of and understanding is important to our progression as a society. We need to rid ourselves of the labels and stigma surrounding depression because it causes us to hide our hurt. Sick is sick, whether it is your body or your brain. Your illness may be your illness, but it is not your identity. As we learn more and more, we understand more of the struggles and causes occurring worldwide, every day.  If we move forward toward a future with more knowledge and understanding of mental health disorders, we move forward towards creating better future outcomes for all.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has numerous online resources and fact sheets. They are sponsoring National Mental Illness Awareness Week this October 6-12. They even offer a free education program for parents and caregivers who work with children experiencing mental health symptoms. There is an online 6 week course for service members and veterans as well as a downloadable guide entitled, “Navigating a Mental Health Crisis.”

NHS Solutions has readily available Interim Behavioral Health Leaders who specialize in the management of both inpatient and outpatient facilities. Contact us with your Interim Behavioral Health Leadership needs today. We have an expedited on-boarding process for urgent Interim Behavioral Health and Interim Nurse Leadership roles. NHS Solutions also offers a generous referral bonus.