“You are NOT Alone”
FROM CARRIE KUBACKI, HEALTH & WELLNESS EDUCATOR, UW-MADISON EXTENSION
May is traditionally the month to bring awareness to mental health. This year, however, with COVID-19 causing even more emotional strain on our lives, it seems even more appropriate to bring attention to the symptoms of mental illness. This year’s theme from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is “You are NOT alone.”
NAMI statistics show that 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 children in the United States will experience a mental illness this year. The highest number of diagnoses (around 20%) are anxiety disorders, some of which include separation anxiety, phobias, panic disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental illness symptoms also typically begin at young ages with 50% of the diagnoses occurring by age 14 and 75% of the diagnoses by age 24. The sooner we recognize the signs of mental illness, the sooner we can get treatments and supports in place.
Each type of mental illness has its own unique symptoms for diagnosis. However, it can be helpful to look for common warning signs—especially emotions and behaviors that have significantly changed over time. Some of the warning signs of a possible mental illness include:
- Intense worries or fears that impact daily functioning
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for two or more weeks in row
- Severe risk-taking behavior that can cause harm to self or others
- Seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real
- Significant changes in weight, mood swings, personality or sleeping habits
- Increased or excessive use of alcohol or other drugs
- Thoughts, plans or actions to harm or end one’s own life
Recognizing that we are not alone in the experience of mental illness is the first step in getting help. Together, we can provide each other support and hope. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, please contact your health care provider, call the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-6264 or go online at www.nami.org.