How to Help Your Friends and Family Dealing with Mental Health Challenges #MC

I participated in this campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for the California Mental Health Services Authority. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

Each Mind Matters unites the hundreds of organizations working together to create health systems that serve minds and bodies, and the millions of Californians who refuse to stay silent while untreated mental illness takes an unnecessary toll on our families and communities. Together, we are creating a California where Each Mind Matters.

Mental illness has moved to the forefront of media coverage and public dialogue after the tragic shooting in Newtown. However, there is a lot of misinformation about the topic. Misleading information about mental health is what leads to stigma and discrimination for those who live with mental illness. Fear of stigma prevents those who need help from getting it.

Right before the holidays, a tragedy happened in the school district of which I work. A young man took his life after after being a victim of bullying at his school. Perhaps it was bullying, lack of support at home or at school, or just not having someone to talk to led his to take his own life.

As a school counselor, I encounter students who feel they are unable to deal with the pressures of home and/or school. Having to earn good grades when dealing with financial traits at home or family instability is too much for some of my students to have to deal with. Some of them cut to alleviate the emotional pain, others have thoughts of suicide as a means to disconnect themselves from the pressures and conflict of everyday life.

A common misconception is that mental illness is something that only happens to “other people.” Many people do not realize that one in four American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental health illness.

These are the facts:
• Nearly one-third (31-32%) of California’s 9th and 11th grade public school students reported extended feelings of sadness/hopelessness in the last year. Among younger students, more than one in four (28%) 7th graders reported such feelings.
• Research shows that half of all mental disorders start by age 14 and three-quarters start by age 24.

How do you know if someone might be dealing with mental illness? I've noticed with my students, a sudden decline in academic grades, change in demeanor, and/or withdrawing from usual activities are red flags for intervention.

Mental Health America lists these warning signs:
Confused thinking
Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
Feelings of extreme highs and lows
Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
Social withdrawal
Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
Strong feelings of anger
Delusions or hallucinations
Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
Suicidal thoughts
Denial of obvious problems
Numerous unexplained physical ailments
Substance abuse

It is important to know If you or someone you care about is in crisis and needs immediate help, call the Crisis Hotline at (888) 724-7240. The phone lines are answered by trained professionals available 24/7; the call is free and confidential. If emergency medical care is needed, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.

Ending the stigma associated with mental illness is a personal choice. We have to decide for ourselves that each mind really does matter. Each one of us must determine what we will do to make a difference. Now is your chance to make your own personal Each Mind Matters pledge.