May is Mental Health Awareness month. The lack of importance given to mental health is proving to be one of the deadly diseases of the century. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2019, there were 47, 511 suicides and 1.38 million suicide attempts. That number continues to grow as the years go on, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Why does mental health awareness have an entire month to itself? That is because mental health is detrimental to a person’s overall health. The brain is the center of the human body. It controls your movements, reflexes, creative ability, emotions, and more. Therefore, if your mental health is being neglected, it won’t be long before your physical health and your emotional health decline.
When a person’s mental health isn’t properly taken care of it can lead to extremely unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, self-harm, and isolation. So much more can be harmful to your social, emotional, and physical health. Improper mental health care can also lead to suicide.
When hearing about mental health, a single picture usually comes to mind and that in itself is unhealthy. The number one step in the right direction is understanding that mental illness looks different on everyone. It’s not always the excessive crying you see in the movies, sometimes it could be procrastinating or forgetting to do things like eat, shower, or answering that important text message. Self-harm also doesn’t come in one form like cutting yourself, it can also be starving yourself, depriving yourself of sleep, or even drunk driving. There is no one way to be depressed, have anxiety, have bipolar disorder, and more. Once everyone understands that, this mental health crisis will be a little bit easier to tackle.
Another misconception is that if you exercise and eat healthily, you won’t have any mental illnesses. Although those things can aid in recovery, those practices are not a guaranteed cure. Some people work out, eat healthily, and even have the “ideal” life but still suffer from different illnesses and that goes to show that mental illness does in fact look different on everyone.
By Ashleigh Howard-Jones, Senior, University High School