From the time we’re young, we’re trained to recognize the signs of injury or physical struggle. Young athletes are taught to cooperate with coaches when there are symptoms of a concussion or Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS). Every year, the American Heart Association trains more than 12 million people in CPR. Many of us have heard public service announcements on radio or television detailing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. But what about recognizing signs and symptoms of mental health and addiction? Do you know the signs of a person struggling with anxiety? Can you identify mental illness in your home, friendships or workplace? Could you recognize the symptoms of alcohol addiction – early on? Statistically speaking, we are much more likely to suffer from our encounter a mental health issue or addiction than a heart attack or stroke. Roughly 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 are addicted to drugs or alcohol; estimates show roughly 1 in 5 Americans face a mental health issue each year. Signs of a stroke or heart attack require urgent action; without a quick response, a person could face serious bodily damage or death. Signs of mental issues may not be as obvious or immediate, but recognizing them could still be the difference between life and death. With rates of mental illnesses and addiction continuing to climb, it’s crucial to think about mental well-being in a different way:
- There Is No “Stereotype”. Addiction and mental health issues know no lines between race, religion, economic status or otherwise. People with addiction or mental health issues are parents, professionals, friends, sisters or brothers. They hold down jobs, attend church or religious worship, go out to social events, and take their children to school. People with mental health problems could be anyone that we know.
- We’re All On The Mental Health Spectrum. Just like physical health, mental health affects everyone. Just like unforeseen things can change your physical health, unforeseen things can change the state of your mental health. You may currently be at the healthy end of the spectrum, but at some point, you may find your mental health has deteriorated. It’s important to know how to address mental health issues, even when you’re ‘healthy’.
- Listen. If you’re prepared to ask someone about their mental well-being and what’s going on in their life, you also need to be prepared to listen. Listening doesn’t mean solving all of their problems or even giving them advice. Listening does mean stopping what you’re doing, giving your undivided attention, emphasizing and withholding judgment. Listening means assuring them that they are not alone in whatever they are facing.
- Education Breaks Barriers. We see what we know. Until we have some knowledge about drug use or mental health – the signs and symptoms that someone may be struggling can be easy to miss. Education about mental health and addiction is one of our best methods of defense and ways to combat problems. Your knowledge can make a difference in your own life and the lives of others.
- Self-Harm Comes In Different Forms What do you think of when you think of ‘self-harm’? For many, it’s the thought of a person cutting their wrists. However, self-harm has so many levels and outlets. Self-harm can be nearly anything that has a negative impact on your physical or mental well-being: Heavy drinking and drug use, use and addiction all fall within the spectrum of self-harm. If you knew your loved one was cutting their wrists, would you say something or try to help? Your answer should be the same for any other type of self-harm.
Physical and mental health make up a large portion of our overall wellbeing. If a friend, family member or loved one was showing signs or symptoms of any type of physical problems, chances are, you’d be quick to act. Let’s change our thinking about mental health struggles, drug use or addiction to do the same.