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Month of May selected to focus attention on mental health awareness

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Life is full of ups and downs, right? All of us have experienced positive feelings and the negative. 

For example, maybe you get a promotion at work and have a good few weeks of up-beat joy. But then, to your dismay, you find out that one of your relatives has passed away. Experiencing different emotions on opposite ends of the spectrum is normal and even healthy. 

However, some may find themselves stuck on the sad side of the spectrum for longer than they feel comfortable with. In addition to feeling depressed, they may find they have a hard time knowing how to get back to feeling happy again. 

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Feeling like you’re in a depressed state of mind can last hours, days, weeks, or years. Some of that is part of the normal ups and downs of life. But how do you know the difference between sadness and depression? 

Often times, feelings of depression are described as one or more of the following: 

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– There’s no pleasure or joy in life. 

– Concentration or focus becomes harder. 

– Everything feels hopeless, and there’s no way to feel better. 

– Self-esteem is often absent. 

– Sleeping may be problematic. 

– Energy levels are low to nonexistent. 

– Food may not seem appetizing. 

– Food may be used as a comfort or coping tool. 

– Aches and pains may be present.

This list is a simple and easy way to self-evaluate your mental well-being. If you find anything on this list relevant to your individual situation, it may be time for you to reach out to someone who can help. 

The Utah Department of Human Services has a fast, anonymous online screener that can help you know if it’s time to get help. You can take it now (no account creation or login required) at hoperecoveryandhealing.com. You will get a quick report of results that can help you think about possible next steps or things you can do. 

Taking the step to get help can be daunting. Signing up with a therapist, even if only for one session, often makes a world of difference for many patients. 

However, talking to someone you don’t know about very personal feelings may seem scary or even impossible. But keep in mind that their job is to support you and help you feel healthy/well. 

Some patients don’t feel comfortable discussing their mental health until a relationship is formed between them and the therapist. Not to worry. Therapists usually take the majority of the first session getting to know you and your interests, building a level of trust between the two of you. 

Getting help you may need can come in many forms! Maybe you think of therapy first, but let’s explore some other ideas. If you’re not ready to enter the realm of professional help and treatment, you can do things on your own to help, too. 

You might practice breathing or go for a walk or practice yoga. One practice that has proven to have healing results is meditation or mindfulness. There are many categories, practices, and methods when it comes to mediation. 

Someone once said, “Are you weak if you get a cast to heal your broken leg, or if you sleep while you have the flu, or if you need to take antibiotics for your ear infection?” 

As with physical illness, don’t forget that there is absolutely nothing wrong with mental illness. It happens, and it’s okay. If you get diagnosed or begin to seek out professional support, you may be reassured to find support and strategies to help you. 

If you’re feeling alone or like you have no idea where to start to even understand what your illness means, there are lots of resources available on the National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Support groups for mental health exist online and in person and will often remind you to love yourself and accept where you’re currently at. You are a person; you are not your illness. Evaluate how you feel each day, taking time for mindfulness and self-care. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with getting help from a mental health professional. 

Taking care of yourself and finding the resources you need to heal is a sign of courage, strength, and honesty. You might seek out self-care, support groups, therapy, intensive treatment, residential treatment, or a hospital mental health branch or clinic. Several mental health providers in the valley offer a free screener/intake evaluation. When you look at their websites, look for things that matter to you, such as diagnoses they treat, modalities they use, online or in-person, group or family therapy sessions, etc. 

This is a great month to take personal inventory and make that first step to getting the help you may need. 

Get Involved: Find links for the events below at aha.org/mental-health-awareness-month Mental Health America 2021 toolkit to conduct awareness activities National Alliance on Mental Illness Awareness Events May 5: World Maternal Mental Health Day. May 6: National Older Adult Mental Health Awareness Day Symposium. May 7: National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day: Resources and Event. May 9-15: SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week. (Serve Daily submission.)

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