MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Welcome. This page represents a first step to information, support and a guide for those seeking treatment. Please consider everything you read here as helpful suggestions, not solutions. The most important thing you can do if you or someone you know is facing a mental health challenge is to ask for help. If you do not have, or are not comfortable, speaking with your physician, you can dial 2-1-1 any time and someone will listen, understand, and direct you to area services. Or, you can browse Navigating Mental Health Services in the Chippewa Valley for additional guidance.
On this page, you'll find information and links to resources that will provide information to help you manage and support your mental health or the mental health of a loved one.
The state of mental health, nationally and locally
Worldwide, nearly half of all mental disorders begin before the age of 14. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that, in the United States, somewhere between 20% and 25% of adults experience some kind of mental health disorder each year. One child in 10 in this country also live with a serious mental or emotional disorder.
In our state of Wisconsin, 188 thousand adults and 60 thousand children suffer a mental health condition, yet only 22-30% of them receive mental health services. And, closer to home, 11.9% of people age 18 or older in Western Wisconsin suffer serious psychological distress.
Mental illness is not a weakness or flaw
Dr. Filza Hussain, a psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Rice Lake, states that “Depression is a real illness. There is an organ involved (the brain), as well as receptors and hormones (i.e., neurotransmitters).” (Depression: Let’s snap out of expecting to snap out of it) This idea, however, is slow to be recognized by society, which leads to:
- Those needing help not seeking it for fear of what others will think of them,
- Family and loved ones of individuals suffering from a mental illness not getting the support and information they need,
- Fear, mistrust and violence against people who have a mental illness
Just as it is ridiculous to think less of or blame someone for having diabetes, cancer or other diseases, it is equally silly to blame or look down on someone for having a mental illness.
Being aware of your mental health
Mental health is not simply a case of being “well” or “ill.” Just because a person doesn’t have a mental illness does not necessarily mean he or she is in good mental health. Stress at work, crisis, or other life troubles can affect our mental wellness, which can in turn affect other aspects of our overall health.
Mental illnesses are real disorders which can affect your thinking, mood, and behavior. There are many causes of mental disorders. Your genes and family history may play a role. Your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, may also matter. Biological factors can also be part of the cause. Mental disorders are common, but treatments are available. (taken from The National Library of Medicine)
All of us should be mindful of our mental wellness, just as we are mindful of our cholesterol, blood pressure, and other gauges of physical health.
Here are some suggestions for a mental checkup you can apply to yourself.
- Concentration – Do you find yourself missing too many deadlines, unable to focus on the task at hand, not getting chores accomplished, or otherwise notice that you just aren’t productive lately? Poor concentration is a hallmark of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but it can also be a symptom of depression or anxiety and should not be overlooked.
- Balance – Is your work and home life in a healthy balance? How about the balance of time between your children and your spouse? Time for others and your “me” time? Perfect balance in life is likely not possible, but should be strived for. Juggling too many responsibilities can result in unhealthy stress.
- Mood – Have been noticing significant mood swings (high or low)? Are you crying more than usual? Feelings of depression that last for two weeks or more? There is a possibility you could be dealing with clinical depression.
- Energy – Fatigue can be a sign of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, but it can also be a symptom of many physical illnesses. If you are unusually fatigued, contact your doctor right away.
- Sleep – If your sleep isn’t restful, it can be a sign that something is troubling you emotionally. It could be that something is causing you stress, or it could be a more serious issue afflicting you. For some, insomnia can be resolved through simple “sleep hygiene” measures such as limiting caffeine in the evening and creating a bedtime ritual.
- Tension/Anxiety – Life can be fast-paced and stress is a common part of our lives. If, however, you find yourself unable to take mental breaks during the day to relax and be worry free for a few moments, this could mean that your stress is reaching a dangerous level.
- Tuning In – How in-touch are you with yourself? Are you experiencing emotions and you don’t know why, such as getting angry or crying for no reason? It’s not uncommon to be so busy that you don’t have a chance to process what is happening to you emotionally. In a case like this, take a moment to write in a journal or talk with a friend. If you don’t, you may do something in a difficult situation that you could later regret (sending off an angry email or taking frustrations out on your kids). Be able to identify that “I feel angry because......” or “I am hurt because....”
- Avoidance – Do you find you take extreme measures to avoid being alone? If so, you may be trying to avoid something emotionally. Anxiety and worry can intensify for some people when alone. If so, take a moment to go to a quiet place where you can be alone and explore how you feel. Write down your thoughts and feelings. It can be an effective way to confront problems and deal with them.
- Eating Habits – If you find your appetite has changed, that you are eating too much or too little, it can be a signal that something isn’t right. For example, craving foods high in sugar and fat can be a response to stress. While temporarily satisfying, this type of eating will ultimately sap your energy and bring you down.
From American Psychiatric Association (APA) Mental Health Checkup
When is professional help warranted?
Professional help may be warranted if you or a loved one experiences:
- Marked change in personality, eating or sleeping patterns
- Inability to cope with problems or daily activities
- Strange or grandiose ideas
- Excessive anxiety
- Prolonged depression or apathy
- Thinking or talking about suicide
- Substance abuse
- Extreme mood swings or excessive anger, hostility or violent behavior
Many people who have mental health conditions consider their signs and symptoms a normal part of life or avoid treatment out of shame or fear. If you're concerned about your mental health or a loved one's mental health, don't hesitate to seek advice.
Consult your family doctor, make an appointment with a counselor or psychologist, or encourage your loved one to seek help. With appropriate support, you can identify mental health conditions and explore treatment options, such as medications or counseling.
Depression is a disorder, not a mood
We all have bad days, get “down in the dumps” or “feel blue.” Maybe it was a bad work day, trouble in a relationship, bad weather, or just feeling low.
If you are suffering from depression, however, you are being afflicted with a condition, not reacting to an external situation. It is often difficult for someone suffering from depression to put into words how they are feeling. Because depression can come off as looking like someone is just feeling down, it is even more difficult for others to understand what the person is actually experiencing.
If you are, or suspect you are suffering from depression or other mental illness, you need to reach out for help, just as you would if you were experiencing symptoms of high blood pressure or low blood sugar. Here are the best first steps you can take to find help, get support, and receive treatment:
- Call 2-1-1 – They are ready for your call 24 hours a day. They will ask you some questions, determine your needs, and connect you to services and programs in the area that can help you.
- Talk to your regular doctor – If you have a doctor that you see regularly, bring this up during a doctor visit. Your doctor can help guide you to the next best course of action
- Reach out to a friend or loved one – If you are having trouble taking action, reach out to someone you know and trust. A friend or loved one can be the support you need to move forward in getting help.
- Browse this helpful guide, Navigating Mental Health Services in the Chippewa Valley for additional guidance.
Advice for family and friends
(from Depression Alliance at www.depressionalliance.org)
You might have noticed that your loved one seems tired all the time. They might seem stressed and withdrawn, and you might wonder why they’re avoiding doing things they used to enjoy. There might be headaches, nausea or sleeping problems. They might talk to you about not feeling themselves, or they might try to carry on and insist they’re fine. Spotting the signs of depression can be difficult, especially if someone has been feeling the same way for a long time. Depression can affect anyone, but most people will get better with the right treatment and support.
If you can, try to accept the condition without blame or guilt even if you feel frustrated, confused and helpless. Most people with depression will need professional help, and support from loved ones alongside this will make a difference. As depression often goes up and down your understanding and support might be helpful for years to come, and being there for someone through illness and recovery may even help you learn more about your own wellbeing and build a closer relationship.
What can I do to help?
- Be there. Don’t be afraid to text, write, meet for coffee or call to let them know you care
- Encourage and support your loved one to visit their GP for professional help
- Try to accept your loved one just the way they are, without judgement
- Be ready to listen, even if they’re not up to talking
- Patience and understanding will go a long way, even if you don’t feel you’re actually doing anything
How Caregivers and loved ones can be supportive:
(from National Alliance on Mental Illness at www.nami.org)
- Maintain your own mental health (see mental health checkup above). You’ll have more energy for problem solving and offering encouragement.
- Learn as much as possible about your family member's condition: available treatments, recommended therapies and medications, options available for supportive housing or employment, etc.
- Show interest in your family member's treatment plan. Have your family member arrange permission for doctors and other medical providers to share treatment options and what to expect, especially regarding possible side effects of medication. Find out how to call the provider if you notice behavioral or emotional changes you're concerned about.
- Encourage your family member to follow the treatment plan. Offer transportation to therapy sessions, or reminders to take medications as prescribed. Be aware that daily prodding about medication can easily insult or anger an adult, so handle this carefully. Talk to your family member about his or her preferences. Try to set up a simple system to reassure you that treatment is continuing as planned.
- Strive for family cooperation. This means communicating with everyone in the family and distributing responsibility equally. Don't try to "spare" family members from stress by leaving the caretaking to one individual. Assign everyone in the household, including the family member with the illness, roles to play according to their abilities.
- Listen carefully. Simply listening is one of the best ways to show your support. If your family member says hurtful things, focus on what they’re feeling rather than the words themselves. Try to recognize and acknowledge the pain, anxiety or confusion rather than getting into arguments.
- Resume "normal" activities and routines. Don't let life revolve around your family member's mental health condition. Watch a movie, eat dinner out or visit a favorite park. Practice living life with a mental health condition, rather than struggling against mental illness.
- Don't push too hard. At the same time, remember that it takes time to heal from an acute episode. Allow your family member to rest. Offer him or her opportunities to ease back into routine activities rather than requiring participation. A gentle approach encourages recuperation.
- Find outside support. Stress is easier to handle when you regularly talk to people who understand your experience. Peer-led support groups are available for people living with mental illnesses and also for their family members.
- Express your support out loud. Spoken encouragement can reduce stress levels. Practice a few simple, gentle statements: "I'm sorry you feel bad and I want to help," "It isn't your fault. It's an illness that can happen to anyone," "Hang in there because you'll feel better down the road."
- Keep yourself and your family member safe. Regarding physical or verbal abuse, set limits that you can keep. For instance, state that you will leave and call the police if your family member becomes physically violent. Discussing your plans for these situations ahead of time can make them more manageable.
- Prepare a crisis plan. Include important phone numbers such as the local crisis intervention team. Include your family member in the planning of this document. Make everyone in the family aware of what they should do in case of an emergency.
- Don't give up. A person with a mental health condition benefits enormously from having social support. Remind your family member that you're there to help and you're not giving up. When setbacks occur with one treatment strategy, look for alternative strategies. Try something new, and encourage your family member not to give up. A good life is possible.
Older adults facing depression
As we grow older, we are faced with many changes in life that can affect our emotions and mental wellness. Depression is real and affects one in five people over age 65. Depression is not an inevitable part of aging, however, and there are many things that can be done to overcome the symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of depression in older adults and the elderly
- Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes
- Social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home)
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
- Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts
Things older adults and the elderly can do to help with depression
It’s a myth to think that after a certain age you can’t learn new skills, try new activities, or make fresh lifestyle changes. The truth is that the human brain never stops changing, so older adults are just as capable as younger people of learning new things and adapting to new ideas. Overcoming depression often involves finding new things you enjoy, learning to adapt to change, staying physically and socially active, and feeling connected to your community and loved ones.
If you’re depressed, you may not want to do anything or see anybody. But isolation and inactivity only make depression worse. The more active you are—physically, mentally, and socially—the better you’ll feel.
- Exercise. Physical activity has powerful mood-boosting effects. In fact, research suggests it may be just as effective as antidepressants in relieving depression. Look for small ways you can add more movement to your day: park farther from the store, take the stairs, do light housework, or enjoy a short walk. Even if you’re ill, frail, or disabled, there are many safe exercises you can do to build your strength and boost your mood—even from a chair or wheelchair.
- Connect with others, face to face whenever possible. You may not feel like reaching out, but make an effort to connect to others and limit the time you’re alone. If you can’t get out to socialize, invite loved ones to visit you, or keep in touch over the phone or email. And remember, it’s never too late to build new friendships. Start by joining a support group for depression, a book club, or another group of people with similar interests.
- Get enough sleep. When you don't get enough sleep, your depression symptoms can be worse. Aim for somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Avoid eating too much sugar and junk food. Choose healthy foods that provide nourishment and energy, and take a daily multivitamin.
- Participate in activities you enjoy. Pursue whatever hobbies or pastimes bring or used to bring you joy.
- Volunteer your time. Helping others is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself and expand your social network.
- Take care of a pet. A pet can keep you company, and walking a dog, for example, can be good exercise for you and a great way to meet people.
- Learn a new skill. Pick something that you’ve always wanted to learn, or that sparks your imagination and creativity.
- Create opportunities to laugh. Laughter provides a mood boost, so swap humorous stories and jokes with your loved ones, watch a comedy, or read a funny book.
Taken from HelpGuide.org at http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-in-older-adults-and-the-elderly.htm