Together we can break the mental health stigma

World Mental Health Month is observed every year with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. The initiative provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control, “mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma, abuse, and loss
  • Family history of mental health problems
  • Social factors, such as economic depression

Mental health issues are more prevalent in lower economic populations around the world, where substance abuse is generally higher. Illicit drugs and substance abuse can significantly add to mental illness by altering the chemicals in the brain. Veterans are another population where mental illness runs high. Sadly, after serving their countries, many veterans find it extremely difficult to reacclimate themselves back into society and often self medicate and isolate themselves.

Unfortunately, in many societies, mental health and emotional issues are seen as less legitimate than physical illnesses, considered a weakness or as being the fault of the person, something they should be able to “snap out of.” This societal stigma causes people to bottle up what they’re feeling rather than ask for help, contributing significantly to the overall problem.

“The problem with mental health is that people expect you to behave normally when you simply can’t. There is a lack of education, a lack of tolerance, and great expectation on the way people should be or act. This causes people to feel like they can’t ask for help. We, healthcare professionals, have the responsibility to educate the public and let people who are suffering from mental health issues know that what they are feeling is valid and that’s it’s okay not to be okay all the time,” said Suzette Velez, PharmD, BCACP, CGP and Director of Clinical Services at Abarca Health.

In today’s world, we are often looking for simple answers to very complex problems, or simply taking a pill to suppress bad feelings rather than addressing the underlying issues of what is causing the particular feeling. Many people think that if they do ask for help for mental and emotional problems, the only treatment options available are medications or therapy. The truth of the matter is that no matter the mental health issue, there are steps a person can take to improve the way they are feeling and experience greater mental and emotional well-being. It all begins with you.

“It is important that mental illness is treated like any other health disorder, and not as a self-inflicted weakness. The truth is that it is the same as any other physical ailment that can be treated with the proper diagnosis. I urge anyone battling with mental illness to ask for help. You would be surprised how much support is out there,” adds Velez.

Today and every day, Abarca is committed to spreading awareness, education, and advocacy against the social stigma surrounding mental health conditions and its effects on the lives of people worldwide. We, as a society, should be more empathetic toward people who are suffering from mental illness.

We urge everyone to approach the topic with an open mind and treat it with the same compassion as we do with any other physical affliction. The National Alliance on Mental Illness gives nine ways we as a collective can speak and act against fighting the mental health stigma:

  1. Speak openly about mental health
  2. Educate yourself and others
  3. Be conscious of language
  4. Encourage equality between mental and physical illness
  5. Show compassion to those with mental illness
  6. Show empowerment over shame
  7. Be honest about treatment
  8. Let the media know when they’re being stigmatizing
  9. Don’t harbor self-stigma

It is also essential to understand that the mind and body considerably affect one another. Improving your physical health intrinsically enhances mental and emotional well-being. Physical activity releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that lift your mood and provide added energy. Regular exercise or activity can have a significant impact on mental and emotional health problems, relieve stress, improve memory, and help you to sleep better. Likewise, healthy eating can also significantly improve the way you think and feel.

If you or someone you know is battling with mental health, you are not alone. There are many supports, services, and treatment options available, as provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The healing process begins when you are ready. For those afflicted with addiction issues, Inspira PR offers comprehensive mental health services, such as Mental Health Clinics, and Specialized programs, including Adolescent, Women, Drug, and Alcohol, and Chronic Care. You can also read more about the importance of prevention and wellness for mental health, as indicated by the CDC, as well as find available tools and resources.

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