The month of May may be Mental Health Awareness Month, but every month, it’s imperative to make your mental health a priority. From processing the stressors of daily life and addressing the lingering effect of a traumatic childhood to assisting grieving the loss of a loved one and managing a diagnosis of a major disorder such as depression, working with a mental health provider can be one of the most powerful choices you make to affect your overall health.
Below we discuss the impact mental health has on the United States, healthcare providers available to help you on your journey and daily practices to enhance your mental health.
How does mental health impact the United States?
According to National Institute of Mental Health, tens of millions of Americans are affected by mental health conditions, yet, only half receive treatment.1 In fact, 1 in 5 adults in the United States have experienced a mental health issue.2
Although there are many types of mental health conditions, top disorders are3:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, orthorexia, eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS), avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), pica, rumination disorder, unspecified feeding or eating disorder (UFED), laxative abuse and compulsive exercise)
Disruptive behavior and dissocial disorders (conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder)
Neural development disorders (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder)
If you suspect you have a mental health condition.
If you’re experiencing problems thinking clearly, regulating your emotions and/or behavior, ask for help. There is no need to unnecessarily struggle to complete everyday tasks when there are solutions to help you feel more empowered.
If you hesitate to seek treatment with a mental health provider, like a therapist, pause and reflect on where this hesitation is stemming from. Do you perceive asking for help as a sign of weakness? Do you hold an inherent bias toward anyone receiving mental health treatment?
Self-reflection on the motivating factor behind not seeking assistance and/or admitting you may have a mental health condition may, thankfully, bring you to a place of acceptance and understanding that change is necessary—for you and your loved one’s happiness, health and survival moving forward.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a great conversation on beliefs behind seeking mental health treatment. Check out their article “Mental Health Myths and Facts” at https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts to explore misconstrued beliefs about mental health treatment even further.
The long-term consequences of not asking for help.2
Since half of Americans with a mental health condition go untreated, this means for years, or even an entire lifetime, millions needlessly suffer from the impact of their symptoms. Symptoms of unmanaged, untreated mental health conditions can result in self-medicating behaviors and coping strategies that prevent individuals from thriving and living the life they deserve.5 Such behaviors prove self-sabotaging because they often lead to addictive behavior (whether to alcohol, drugs, prescription medication, food, sex, exercise, social media, shopping, gambling, etc.) that in turn can cause a history of unemployment, broken relationships, unstable housing and incarceration as well as additional medical health risk factors such as diabetes, liver disease, heart disease and kidney failure.
Finding a mental health provider.6,7
Access to mental health resources in the United States falls extraordinarily short of other healthcare services such as emergency and sick care. Add in a global pandemic and the impact COVID has had on the mental health of each of us, waiting lists for being seen by a mental health provider can be long. This said, advocating for yourself to not only have access, but also referral, to the correct provider will be your most valuable act in beginning to feel your best.
Here is a general summary of different mental health providers and the services they offer:
From evaluating, diagnosing and treating groups and individuals with various therapy interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (e.g.: talk therapy), psychologists have a doctorate degree in psychology.
Clinical Social Worker
Providing screening and diagnosis, clinical social workers hold a masters level graduate degree and are trained to serve as a family and individual advocate for all kinds of services, not just mental health services. The kinds of interventions offered by social workers are similar to that of psychologists and will vary by specialization.
Mental Health Counselor
An umbrella term that can cover individuals completing a masters level degree, mental health counselors may be generalists like a licensed professional counselor or undergo a specialized training to become a family therapist, drug and alcohol abuse counselor, etc. These healthcare providers can help patients address symptoms and begin behavioral interventions that will impact their lives overall—versus focusing primarily just on evaluation, diagnosis and formal intervention research.
Trained as a medical doctor with a specialty in psychiatry, psychiatrists are typically the mental health care provider involved in diagnosing mental health conditions and overseeing medication interventions. For example, a psychiatrist will work with families to formally diagnosis a child’s ADHD and implement the best medication intervention to treat symptoms.
Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Holding either a masters or doctorate level degree in nursing, psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners are in similar standing of psychiatrists in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions with medication intervention.
Self-care in the meantime.
There are plenty of self-soothing, coping strategies that will result in you feeling better—versus those that may be self-sabotaging short- and long-term. For example, getting enough sleep every night is one of the most important behaviors you can have to help your body and brain recover and rebuild. Getting between 7-9 hours sleep each night will help you maintain better mental clarity and energy.
In addition to sleep, eating a nourishing meal plan rich in all Food Groups (Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Dairy and Protein), participating in daily physical activity, incorporating stress-management practices into your days such as meditation, yogic breathing and journaling, as well as staying current with regular medical appointments and screenings are a time-proven 5-point strategy to maintaining a healthy you.
Managing your mental health not only is an extraordinary way to show yourself love and support, it is a powerful way to address many facets of your life and health that may feel overwhelming to maintain. If you think mental health services may be right for you, speak to your primary healthcare provider for a referral now. The faster this phase of the process starts, the quicker your path to better mental health will be.
If you ever consider hurting yourself, or are concerned about someone who may,
please call or text 988 immediately to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
1 National Institute of Mental Health. Mental health information: statistics. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics. Accessed 4/18/2023.
2 National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental health by the numbers. https://www.nami.org/mhstats. Accessed 4/19/2023.
3 World Health Organization. Mental disorders. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders. Accessed 4/18/2023.
4 National Eating Disorders Association. Information by eating disorder. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-eating-disorder. Accessed 4/18/2023.
5 National Institute of Mental Health. Substance abuse and co-occurring mental disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/substance-use-and-mental-health#:~:text=Mental%20disorders%20can%20contribute%20to,a%20form%20of%20self%2Dmedication. Accessed 4/19/2023.
6 Kaiser Family Foundation. Access and Coverage for Mental Health Care: Findings from the 2022 KFF Women’s Health Survey. https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/access-and-coverage-for-mental-health-care-findings-from-the-2022-kff-womens-health-survey/. Accessed 4/19/2023.
7 National Alliance on Mental Illness. Types of mental health professionals. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Types-of-Mental-Health-Professionals. Accessed 4/19/2023.