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    Since this is Mental Health Awareness month, it is also important to talk about when we don’t have mental health.

    Poor mental health and mental illness are not the same. Many of us experience periods of poorer mental health but do not require a diagnosis or treatment.

    These symptoms or challenges are more likely to lead to a diagnosis or require treatment if it is persistent and negatively impacts your functioning in day to day life emotionally, socially, and/or at work/school.

    Many factors contribute to the risk or development of mental illness, including:  

    • Early adverse life experiences, such as trauma, neglect, or abuse
    • Experiences related to other ongoing (chronic) medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes or invasive/repeated medical procedures
    • Biological factors or chemical imbalances in the brain
    • Use of alcohol or drugs (by the mother while pregnant or by the person)
    • Chronic experiences of social isolation and/or rejection
    • Experiences of discrimination and prejudice

    According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 19.0% of adults in the US are experiencing a mental illness. This is equivalent to over 47 million Americans. And 4.6% are experiencing a severe mental illness.

    Early warning signs that someone is experiencing mental health challenges include:

    Confused thinking

    Long-lasting sadness or irritability

    Extreme highs and lows in mood

    Excessive fear, worry or anxiety

    Social withdrawal

    Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits

    Strong feelings of anger

    Increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities

    Denial of obvious problems

    Many unexplained physical problems

    Increasing use or abuse of drugs and/or alcohol

    If you or someone you love is struggling with their mental health you are not alone and help is available. If you are in need of help and support you can ask your doctor for a referral, contact your insurance provider for referrals or look into local mental health centers that provide free or low cost services.

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