Mental Health Awareness Month: You Are Not Alone

By: Darcy Knight 

Mental illness, by definition, differs from everyday feelings and reactions to difficult situations. 

People who suffer from a mental illness may experience a serious disturbance in thinking, mood, or behavior. 

This may have an impact on their ability to function effectively over a long period of time. They may have a decreased ability to cope with the basic aspects of everyday life. 

Many people need help in regaining balance in their lives.

While millions of people struggle with mental health issues, it is easy to feel isolated or like there is something wrong with you.  

Did you know:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 2.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-14.

(Facts provided by NAMI)

Mental health issues can have a radiating impact on your body and on those around you.  Physical health can be impacted by mental health issues. 

This includes an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory issues and even cancer.  Your sleep can also be impacted, which creates a compounding impact. You experience an increase in physical and mental health issues due to not getting enough sleep, which then can result in you having more sleep issues.

Mental health issues, even less chronic ones, can have a significant impact on family and friend relationships.  When you are depressed or experiencing severe anxiety, it is difficult to focus on anything outside of your own feelings at that moment, leaving little bandwidth to invest energy in the relationships with those around you.  In a family, it can cause stress, tension and worry as well as the focus of the family becoming centered on the identified patient. 

This is challenging for family members as well as not being an ideal situation for the person struggling.

Next Steps

It is helpful to familiarize yourself with the common signs of mental illness.  Although each condition is different, there are common signs to watch for, such as feeling excessively sad or low, confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning, extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria, prolonged feelings of irritability or anger, and avoiding friends and social activities. 

In kids the signs might include changes in school performance, excessive worry or anxiety,  hyperactive behavior, frequent nightmares, frequent disobedience or aggression, or frequent temper tantrums.  

You can find a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms on NAMI’s website. 

Recovery and relief from many mental health issues is possible. Proper diagnosis, therapy, medication if needed (including some new approaches that have shown promise for treatment- resistant depression, such as Spravato and Psilocybin), healthy habits, and self-care can all help to get you on the path towards feeling better.  

Engaging in positive habits can help anyone feel better both emotionally and physically. Here are some suggestions for getting yourself and your loved ones on the healthiest path that you can.

  • Be physically active on a daily basis.  Go for a walk with a friend or with your dog, do yoga, go for a bike ride, take the stairs, dance. You can fit multiple short periods of exercise in throughout your day.
  • Eat healthy foods. Healthy food gives your body the fuel it needs to heal.  Eat the rainbow, get enough protein, limit sugar, and try to eat everything in moderation.
  • Sleep! A deficiency in sleep is linked to many chronic health problems as well as to depression. When you sleep, it is your brain and body’s time to grow and heal.
  • Limit substance use, including alcohol. You can weigh the risks vs. rewards of moderate alcohol use.  But heavy use does not have any benefits and contributes to a number of health issues.
  • Engage with your support system. This is your psychological first aid.  A hug. Someone to talk to.  Someone who cares about you.  Connection is vitally important to emotional well-being. Friends, family (for some), your job, your activities, social events, Etc. Go do whatever it is that makes you feel connected to others. Even just acknowledging a stranger as they walk by has been found to have a positive impact on feelings of connection.
  • Focus on gratitude. This is associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive, enjoy good experiences, improve health, and build relationships.

All of these habits can help you be more healthy in your everyday life.  But while they might help, they are not a cure for mental illness. 

 If you or a loved one is struggling, please ask for help. You are not alone.


Mayo Clinic 


988–Suicide and Crisis Hotline

Gratitude Research by Harvard Health

The Sweet Danger of Sugar by Harvard Health

Alcohol Use: Weighing Risks and Benefits

The Benefits of Eating the Rainbow

Connection with Social Supports