Recognizing and Supporting Whole-Body Health This Mental Illness Awareness Week
October 9, 2020
More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, society is still grappling with the new normal for work, school and everyday life. For many, these urgent priorities don’t leave time to stop and reflect — yet pausing to recognize the pandemic’s effect on our mental well-being is crucial to our ability to manage it.
COVID-19 rattled our stability. Half of all Americans say their anxiety has increased since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11; 32% report more sadness; and one in four say they’re experiencing more fear and anger (27% and 25%, respectively), according to a recent report from Finn Partners and Civis Analytics.
These statistics are all the more poignant against a backdrop of a growing mental health crisis across the country. As Mental Illness Awareness Week draws to a close today, we recognize the continued need to educate the public, provide support for those who seek mental health services, and fight the stigma of mental health issues.
Time for a Change
Richmond, Virginia-based psychotherapist Gideon Javna, LCSW, says this awareness week is an important and much-needed resource to provide education about a topic that is often ignored. “While education has improved over the last 20 years, the importance of mental health awareness is still rarely mentioned to children in school or adults at work,” Javna says.
A recent survey conducted by FINN client The Jed Foundation and other partners found more than half of students (58% college; 53% high school) said they were “moderately,” “very” or “extremely” worried about their mental health. Javna explains that in the school and the workplace, individuals are encouraged to work harder. Personal difficulties, such as depression and anxiety, are often viewed as weaknesses, or something that an individual should work through and overcome. Individuals in distress frequently conform to this notion by posturing as if everything is “okay.” Overlooking the importance of self-care, rest and mental health services as normal — and needed — components of a healthy lifestyle can create incredibly damaging results.
Complicating matters, the signs and symptoms of mental illness can be difficult to pick up on if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, Javna adds. In general, mental illnesses exist on a spectrum with varying degrees of severity. Issues regarding self-harm or delusions should be treated immediately with acute care. Disorders that prompt mild anxiety or depressive symptoms can be recognized by an individual’s ability to function and accomplish tasks in the school, home or work environment.
Access to Resources and Support is Critical
Accepting this new post-pandemic life is something we are all getting used to — and having access to the right support is a matter of national public health.
Wonderful resources exist for those with mental illness or who have a loved one with mental illness, including the National Alliance for Mental Illness and The Jed Foundation. Our responsibility as communicators, neighbors, friends and citizens is to help spread the word that they exist — and to reinforce the idea that prioritizing care for our mental wellbeing is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength.
Mental health disorders are very treatable with professional help, time and patience, according to Javna. Let’s all do our part to ensure our communities can stay healthy through these uncertain times — by asking questions, educating, and helping people in distress find the resources and support they need.