One in 5 people will suffer from a mental illness during their lifetime. The current coronavirus pandemic has left many experts concerned that the increased pressures and stress will result in even more people facing struggles with their mental health. That is why it’s incredibly important to observe May’s Mental Health Month and educate yourself on mental health and mental illness as we all continue to face an uncertain future.
Mental illness can have a variety of causes. For some mental illnesses, genetics and chemical factors play a role, while others are triggered by external forces. With businesses shutting down and schools closing their doors, people are grappling with high-stress situations like unemployment and round-the-clock childcare. These external stressors can cause increased levels of depression and anxiety. Heightened tensions can further result in an increased likelihood of domestic violence and child abuse as victims are forced to stay home, with potentially violent family members.
Child abuse also has a significant impact on an individual’s mental health. Studies have shown child sexual abuse in particular can cause an increase in mental health issues in adulthood including increased likelihood of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Resources are available for survivors of sexual abuse, though oftentimes legal battles are fought after decades of bearing the burden of their abuse, and the damage it can do to their mental health, alone.
Friends and loved ones can play an important role in breaking the cycle of trauma and subsequent mental illness through early intervention. Though different mental illnesses present different symptoms, it’s a good idea to take note of certain red flags that may occur if someone is struggling.
These red flags include, but are not limited to:
- Increased levels of sadness, hopelessness, depression
- Reduced ability or difficulty concentrating
- Increased levels of fear, worry, paranoia
- Isolation from friends and family
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Inability to deal with with daily stressors
- Inability to understand/relate to others
- Substance abuse
- Changes in diet
- Changes in sex drive
- Increased levels of rage or hostility
- Suicidal thoughts/ideations
Once a mental illness or a struggle to maintain proper mental health has been identified, there are many options for relief. Community resources like The Women’s Center are still available to the public during quarantine, and national resources including the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are still offering 24/7 mental health care.
Another important way you can support Mental Health Month is by sharing your own struggles or experiences with mental illness. NAMI’s “You Are Not Alone” campaign encourages people affected by mental illness to share their stories in an effort to remind all the people who are struggling that they are not alone. Campaigns like this are designed to reduce the stigma around mental health and make it easier for people who may be suffering alone to seek support and treatment. In these times of public panic, sharing a common bond, story, or experience about mental illness can remind us all that we are supported and connected.