Many ways to promote mental health

In the past year, according to the National Research Council & Institute of Medicine, an estimated one in five (or 43.7 million) people aged 18 and older in the U.S. had a mental illness; including mood, anxiety and eating disorders. Among adults reporting a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder during their lifetime, more than half report that the disorder started in childhood or adolescence. These statistics underscore the importance of promoting overall psychological well-being and recognizing and supporting positive characteristics, such as the ability to manage stress, demonstrate flexibility under changing conditions, and bounce back from adverse situations.

By talking about mental health and modeling healthy behaviors, individuals and communities can help prevent mental health issues and other behaviors that can accompany them, such as substance abuse. Statistics compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate that:

– Among the 43.7 million adults ages 18 and older with a mental illness in 2012, nearly one in five (19.2 million) also met criteria for substance dependence or abuse.

– In 2012, adults ages 18 or older with a serious mental illness were more likely to smoke cigarettes.

There are many simple ways for individuals and communities to promote mental health in all aspects of daily life. It’s important for parents, educators and community leaders in Fulton and Montgomery counties to learn about the risk and protective factors that affect healthy development. Equally important is having open conversation, especially with youth and young adults, about the importance of mental health. Everyone can make a difference, from creating and maintaining a safe home environment where children feel comfortable sharing problems; to developing strategies to communicate publicly the importance of mental health and the value of preventive services; to training supervisors in the workplace to recognize signs of mental illness and refer people to service that can help.

For more information, please visit www.samshsa.gov/communityconversations or www.mentalhealth.gov

GINGER CATO

Community educator, Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties