Mental Health Month

Gina C. Pervall, M.D.

The observance of May as Mental Health Month is to raise awareness and provide education about mental illnesses. Determinants of mental health include the ability to manage one’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors and interactions with others, as well as social, cultural, economic, political and environmental factors. Evidence shows that mental health conditions affect 1 in 5 Americans – nearly 47 million Americans.

Mental illness is a diagnosable mental disorder. There are several mental disorders, including: depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, and developmental disorders. These disorders can affect perception, thinking, emotion, and behavior. Mental disorders affect family and interpersonal relationships and may result in impaired functioning.

Mental health plays an important role in physical health and mental disorders are among the most common causes of disability. Mental disorders are associated with the occurrence and progression of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and cancer. Alternatively, chronic diseases, can have an impact on mental health. A brief description of common mental disorders follows:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): inattention, disorganization, and hyperactivity-impulsivity
  • Anxiety Disorder: overwhelming and constant feelings of stress, restlessness, worry or fear
  • Bipolar Disorder: shifts in mood resulting in manic episodes of high energy and depressive episodes of low energy
  • Depression: lack of motivation, negative thoughts and hopelessness, changes in appetite and sleep
  • Eating Disorder: intentional changes in the consumption of food resulting in adverse effects on physical health
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) repeated over and over
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): triggers cause emotional and physical reactions in someone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event
  • Schizophrenia: thoughts are out of touch with reality, inability to think clearly and make decisions.

Mental disorders can be devastating. However, there are effective treatments and strategies for preventing mental disorders. The first step in managing mental disorders is recognition. Abnormal thoughts or changes in mood and/or behavior should be reported to a healthcare provider for development of a personalized treatment plan.