UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and according to the National Alliance of Mental Health millions of Americans are affected by mental illness each year.

Dr. Jason Bombard, a psychiatrist/co-medical director with Aspirus Ironwood Geriatric Behavioral Health, discusses what Mental Health Awareness Month is and its main purpose.

“Mental Health Awareness Month was designed to bring a little bit more public knowledge to the fact that mental health is really something that affects almost everybody. Whether it’s you yourself or somebody in your family there is somebody you know that is affected by mental health issues.”

“In fact, 26 percent of all adult Americans will suffer a mental health disorder at some point in their life, and 17 percent of youth between the ages of 6 to 17. So this is a very prevalent problem that really has been in the shadows for a long time. It is now finally being brought out so we can see how important it is to get people the help that they need,” said Bombard.

Bombard explains some ways to improve our mental health.

“There are a lot of ways. To start with, being more physically healthy is certainly a great approach to mental health as well. A lot of studies have shown that people with mild depression or some mild anxiety issues get as much benefit from 30 minutes of exercise a day, three or four times a week as they do being on an antidepressant medication. So getting out, getting healthy, eating well all of those things can be very good. Being around people is also important, too. The pandemic has had a terrible impact on people’s mental health. The social isolation, especially among the older and younger populations has been really dramatic and that has really affected a lot of people’s mental health.”

“So getting out there and doing the things that you used to do again is important. And if none of that works, get in and talk to somebody. The average time from the time when you first develop symptoms to the time people get diagnosed and treated is 11 years. You wouldn’t wait that long for most medical conditions, but people put it off and put it off just hoping that things are going to get better when they don’t a lot of times. So get in, see somebody, talk to your primary care doctor or find some mental health resources in your area and talk to somebody because there is help out there it’s just a matter of making sure that you recognize that you need it,” said Bombard.

If you or someone you know is struggling, we have a list of mental health resources in every U.P. county in this web story.