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A Crisis On World Mental Health Day

by William Henken ❘  

An Increase Of 1.5 Million People Experienced A Mental Illness

Sunday, October 10 was World Mental Health Day. The day was observed by a world in the midst of a mental health crisis, but new research shows there’s hope for the millions suffering around the globe.

The depth of the current crisis has pushed hope to its breaking point: a new report from UNICEF found that no less than 13% of young people between 10 and 19 have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

It’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a major impact on mental health, but evidence shows trends began well before the pandemic according to Mental Health America, a nonprofit devoted to wellness, “In 2017-2018, 19% of adults experienced a mental illness, an increase of 1.5 million people over last year’s dataset.” In 2020, 40% of adults reported struggling with addiction or mental health.

A survey by the American Psychological Association revealed some of the things causing Americans stress: uncertainty about the safety of oneself and one’s family, difficulty paying bills, and frustration about the state of the world or one’s personal life topped the list.

There’s a very real harm done by such a prevalent degree of mental illness; suicide has been the second leading cause of death among Americans between 10 and 34. A recent op-ed in Stat News declared that the American Medical Association should, “take decisive action and declare a national mental health emergency.”

What’s more, the US Department of Health reports that mental health conditions are liable to give rise to addiction, while substance abuse can cause symptoms of a mental health disorder; over a quarter of adults with significant mental illness also struggle with addiction. If suicide can be considered among the most extreme and destructive ends of mental illness, then suicide’s relationship with addiction can’t be ignored; almost 25% of American suicide victims are under the influence upon their death.

Anyone who struggles with addiction, mental health, or both shouldn’t wait until things get worse to take action. There’s good news: research shows that some simple changes, many of which can be made without any outside help, can dramatically improve one’s patterns of feeling and thinking. On top of that, outside help is also available. Therapies and treatment modalities that have been proven to work can be powerful tools in anyone’s toolbox.

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New Research: Simple Changes Improve Mental Health

Some might imagine a future solution for mental health to arrive in the form of a new pill, innovative treatment method, or inner personal realization. It certainly might.

However, new research has shown that small, specific changes around lifestyle choices can drastically alter mental health in ways that might be surprising — especially to one who might see such changes as being elementary.

For example, one study published this year on nutrition found that while, “Poor mental well-being is a major issue for young,” that “The contribution of nutrition is underexplored.” Researchers looked into the measurable impact on eating well, particularly the consumption of more fruits and vegetables, on mental health. Conclusions include that, “Higher combined fruit and vegetable consumption was significantly associated with higher well-being” and that “public health strategies to optimise the mental well-being of children should include promotion of good nutrition.” Adult mental health may similarly benefit from such basic dietary measures; however, the CDC reported in 2017 that barely 1 in 10 adults gets enough fruit and vegetables in their diet.

Eating more healthfully would likely help treat addiction as well; one 2009 article published in Drugs and Alcohol Today found that, “there is a close, exacerbating relationship between problematic substance use and poor nutrition.”

Another simple change that could help with mental health is spending more time in nature: Science Daily reported last Thursday about new research which found that, “outdoor, nature-based activities…lasting for 20 to 90 minutes, sustained for over the course of 8 to 12 weeks, have the most positive outcomes for improving mood and reducing anxiety.” Gardening and exercising were 2 such activities, and each was correlated with mental health gains.

A study of 12,000 US adults, conducted within the last 5 years, found that most spent little time outside and that many viewed the outdoors as being dangerous.

Eating more fruits and vegetables and spending more time outdoors may be 2 very effective means of improving one’s health that too many Americans may be simply unable or willing to attempt. Those that do implement these changes may begin to reap the rewards for their mental health; however, outside assistance may be necessary.

Help Available For Mental Health, Addiction

There’s no shortage of external aid for the individual struggling with mental disorders and/or addiction. A trained and licensed professional can help by providing therapy; 2 forms that may be encountered in rehab, mindfulness therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, have been proven to have long-lasting and positive impacts on the mood and the mind.

Pharmacological solutions, such as Antidepressants, may also be prescribed in rehab after a diagnostic assessment; symptoms may recur after use of them is stopped, however they may be most effective as a short-term solution.

Furthermore, rehab may allow one to reset self-defeating cycles that stop one from implementing the kinds of changes described in the above section, like eating right and spending time outside, by taking one away from the routine of day-to-day life and providing altitude and perspective with which to examine previously automatic behavioral patterns.

Whatever it is that excites you most about rehab, there’s no reason to delay seeking the help you need. Contact a treatment provider today to learn more, and take a step toward defeating an addiction, managing a mental health condition, and making a better life before it’s too late.

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