- Jordan Johnson
Mind your mental health
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recently recorded suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Poor sleeping habits, mood swings, anger, and suicidal thinking are symptoms of multiple mental health illnesses and poor self-care habits.
Today’s college students--who battle sleep issues and mood swings while carrying a full load of courses and other responsibilities--can reach a breaking point.
But there’s help out there, and it starts with awareness.
A recent study by MentalHealth.net found that Americans only feel “slightly informed” about mental health and self-care.
“Mental health and self-care mean having your life together,” said James Shanks, age 72, in attempting to define mental health. Growing up, he said, it wasn’t something people discussed openly.
“We were told to get over it and move on,” he said.
Shanks said that he believed mental health was important, but never truly understood what it entailed. “If you don’t have good self-care, your life must suck,” he said.
Mental health today looks different than in previous years. Research suggests a stigma used to exist around mental health issues.
According to a MentalHealth.net article featuring Joshua Gordon, the Director of National Institute of Mental Health, “...mental illnesses are sometimes spoken of in whispers, even within families, masking the true impact and facilitating stigma and discrimination.”
What encompases a mental-health issue can vary depending on who you ask.
“I honestly have heard of it and know it’s real, but everyone’s version of mental health is different,” said Christopher Mangen, age 34.
Mangen said one of his co-workers used to struggle with bad mental health.
“After seeing him struggle and lose himself, I really felt bad and noticed how important someone’s mental health was,” said Mangen. Since then, he has tried to understand mental health better and help others.
But, it doesn’t just affect older populations. Half of mental disorders begin by age 14 and three-quarters by age 24, according to a report by Mental Health First Aid. It is often the case that self-care tips are not discussed in childhood, though some public schools work to build transparency on the issue through educational programming at the middle and high-school level.
“We had an assembly at school in the spring that made me feel better about my own mental health,” said Janet Rowlins, a high school student who said she hadn’t yet opened up to her friends about her own text anxieties. “Awareness, alone, helped me.”
Wilmington College features an Active Minds chapter that meets regularly throughout the academic year. Academic Minds is a nonprofit organization that promotes mental health awareness on college campuses. According to its Facebook profile, chapter members hope to “shift negative perceptions of mental health into more positive ones through education, advocacy, and effective communication.”
The first national Mental Health Awareness Week took place in 2001. Since then, the month of May has been dubbed Mental Health awareness month and has gained national attention.