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Mental Health Awareness Month: Highlighting Mental Illness and Addiction

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. During this important month, the mental health and addiction community work to spread a message of inclusion, encourage awareness of mental illness and addiction, and teach the public ways to support their own mental health.[1] The biggest goal of having a month devoted to mental health awareness is to reduce the stigma that often accompanies talking about mental illness or addiction. About 20% of American adults live with a mental illness, but the subject is largely ignored or avoided.[2] By dedicating a whole month to talking about mental health, the mental health community is attempting to reduce people’s discomfort in talking about this issue and encourage people to get the treatment they need and deserve.

Mental illness and substance abuse are intertwined. People may begin using drugs or alcohol to numb emotional pain or to suppress the symptoms of an untreated mental illness like depression or anxiety. Using drugs and alcohol can also make existing mental health symptoms worse. If you or someone you love struggle with a mental health condition or substance abuse, Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time to start a treatment program. There is no shame in talking about these issues, and everything to gain from getting the help you need.

Why Is Mental Health Awareness Month Important?

Many people feel afraid to talk about their mental health and substance abuse issues. They may hide or deny their symptoms and experiences to friends, family, and their medical providers. Keeping their conditions a secret sometimes means that people struggle alone with their mental illness or addiction for a long time. Research shows that, on average, people with mental health symptoms don’t seek treatment until they’ve been living with their condition for about 11 years.[2] In that time, they may attempt to manage their symptoms with drugs and alcohol, and they are likely to experience negative consequences in their physical and social health. 

​How Can I Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month?

The inclusive message of Mental Health Awareness Month can spread further if more people find a way to celebrate it. Here are some ways that you can celebrate this important month and keep sending this message out into the world.

​Share Your Story

If you feel comfortable with it, sharing the story of your own struggle with mental illness or substance abuse can be a great way to let people know they’re not alone. Whether you decide to talk in person or share your story on social media, you’ll help spread the message that it’s OK to talk about these things.

​Start Mental Health or Addiction Treatment

Don’t wait for months or years to get the treatment you need. The sooner you start a treatment program, the better chance you have to avoid serious consequences to your mental, physical, and social health. Not only will you get the help you need, but you may inspire those around you to do the same.

​Make Time for Self Care

Self-care can be an important tool to manage the symptoms of both mental illness and substance abuse. You might imagine bubble baths or scented candles when you hear the term, but real self-care is about finding a healthy balance between activity and rest, and learning skills to manage your emotions without using substances. Self-care looks different for everyone, but some basic things you can do to support good mental health are:

  • Focus on sleep – go to bed at the same time every night, create a calming bedtime routine, and avoid alcohol and large meals in the hours before bedtime
  • Exercise – move your body in a way that feels good to you every day. You don’t have to run a marathon to get the benefits. Walking, swimming, dancing, doing yoga, and even yard work all give you the benefits of less stress and a healthier heart and mind.
  • Nourish your body – eat regularly, choose nourishing foods, and drink plenty of water (or other sugar-free, non-caffeinated beverages like herbal tea and sparkling water).
  • Practice mindfulness – this could be starting a meditation practice, journaling, or having some quiet time to think every day without screens or distractions. You don’t need a lot of time–even five or ten minutes a day is enough to feel the benefits.

Getting Help for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse During Mental Health Awareness Month

Getting the help you need to overcome addiction is essential to taking care of your mental health. That’s why Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time to start an addiction treatment program. Wondering if you need addiction treatment? Some common signs of addiction include:

  • Using more drugs or drinking more than you intended to
  • Needing to take more of the substance to get the same effects
  • Having financial or social consequences because of your substance use
  • Continuing to use substances despite negative consequences
  • Being secretive about your substance use, or hiding it
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from using substances
  • Isolating from people other than those who use substances
  • Experiencing changes to your mood, sleep, or appetite

Recognizing any of these signs might mean that you require addiction treatment. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and effective treatment is available. 

Find a Rehab Center in West Palm Beach Today

If you or someone you love need supportive, holistic addiction treatment, you are not alone. At the Mandala Healing Center, we offer a variety of programs designed to help you overcome addiction and work towards the healthy, self-directed life you deserve. To learn more about our programs or to get started with life-changing treatment, contact us today.