Mental health awareness and help

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MARQUETTE — Mental health is an issue that affects many people across the world. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness and an estimated 16.2 million U.S. adults have had at least one major depressive episode, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million U.S. adults each year and yet only 36 percent of those suffering seek help, says the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

So why is it that people feel they can’t or don’t need to seek help?

“Seeking help is a really individual decision, it requires some insight that something’s not going right. Whether it’s…they’re having difficulty concentrating, they realizing they’re not doing well with everyday tasks in life; so sometimes that’s recognizing first that something’s not right, I’m not who I typically know myself to be and maybe I need to go see someone” explains Jean Kupper, LMSW, CAADC, MAC.

Some people feel that their problems are not ‘severe’ enough to see a professional for help. Traci Baxendale Ball, Founder of Vibrant Health Company disagrees.

“When I’m sitting with somebody and listening to them and getting to know them, that’s never a waste of my time…it’s easier for us to get the brain and body to repell that stress when the mental injury is not as bad. So it’s really no different from a physical injury.”

The stigma that used to go along with mental health is slowly lessening. People are becoming more comfortable talking about mental health and seeking out help, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Traci Baxendale Ball, LMSW, CAADC, continues, “I am so inspired by the younger generation and how they’re tackling the issues around mental health and trauma. Social media and technology has helped immensely to reduce stigma. It’s still disheartening, however, to see that mental health and substance abuse issues are still considered by many people to be personal failings or issues of character. We really need to look at mental health issues and substance abuse issues like we would any other illness.”

Especially in the Upper Peninsula, many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder due to the long, dark winter months.

“Winter is significant because we have less light up here in the U.P. but also the fall when we change into shorter days that affects people’s individual moods. So more increased symptoms of sadness, isolating, maybe a change in appetite: more eating, less eating, a change or less interest in doing things” says Kupper,  LMSW, CAADC, MAC.

But while seeking help if you feel it necessary is important, sometimes you can improve your mental health on your own.

“I don’t think that counseling is always the right avenue for people to seek help and that might be surprising to hear me say,” says Baxendale Ball, LMSW, CAADC, “But most of the things that we can do to change our mental health, actually happen on the home front.”

Traci splits positive mental health into four quadrants of total wellness:

  • COGNITIVE (Mind)
    • Positive self-talk
    • Don’t beat yourself up about small things
  • EMOTIONAL
    • Journaling
    • Meditation
  • SOMATIC (Body)
    • Good nutrition
    • Taking supplements, vitamins, and medicine (if needed)
    • Exercise
  • BEHAVIOR
    • Finding a good sleep schedule
    • Daily activities
    • Having a daily routine

Kupper, LMSW, CAADC, MAC, adds, “It’s not a one-time thing and then you’re cured. It’s changes in behavior. You know, if your foots broken you don’t just go to the doctor one time. You have follow-ups, maybe you change how you exercise, how you stretch, to improve and strengthen those muscles. So we’re looking at the same thing, it’s an ongoing life change.”

Baxendale Ball, LMSW, CAADC, says, “There’s really nobody I know that lives an entire life without experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma and so if we really think about it, it’s relatable. So don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

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