By: Sue Anganes
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, nearly 450 million people worldwide are currently living with a mental illness, yet nearly two thirds of people with a known mental illness never seek treatment. It’s probably the case that most of you reading this blog post have been affected by mental illness in one form or another in your own families or your extended families.
In early childhood, you may have a sense that something is not quite right with your child. For example, you may wonder if his or her anxiety or reaction to a certain situation is normal. Sometimes we don’t realize that our child may have an anxiety disorder, a phobia, a sensory disorder, or another mental health issue which is making them unable to cope in normal situations. In teens, we may notice a change in behavior, depression, an attitude problem, or our teen may be acting out rebelliously. Substance abuse, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders often start in the teen years, and we need to get our teens help when these issues arise.
With such a varied and wide range of mental illnesses and disorders, where do we go for help? The first thing to do is discuss the issue with your primary care physician. They will often direct you to the proper doctors or counselors to begin a plan of care. Often it may take a team of doctors to help treat a mental illness; psychiatrists, behavioral therapists, counselors, occupational therapists, and others. There are also resources online for finding and getting help for a loved one with a mental illness.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has a website with links to information needed for those with a family member suffering from a mental illness.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness also has a great link with lots of helpful information.
For local information, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health has an informative website:
Mental illness is such an expansive topic to delve into deeply in just a simple blog post. We do however need to take it as seriously as any physical illness and get help for any family member who is in need. Mental illness no longer should be stigmatized. We now have proven medical treatments and medications to help those who suffer from mental illness to live satisfying and productive lives.