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Elevating Mental Health in 2024

Building a resilient mind: A roadmap to mental well-being

It is a New Year and most people start it off by resolving to be healthier and better people. Typically this means more exercise, more vegetables and less sugar. However, despite being extremely common, few resolve to improve their mental health in the New Year. Our world is getting faster and more connected. We spend our days as busy as possible, with endless demands and checking off our to-do list, and our mental health often takes a low priority on this list. This has profound repercussions with an estimated 311,000 adults in Idaho having a mental health condition. This is well over 2.5x the population of Meridian! But it doesn’t have to be this way and with just a few changes in 2024 you can embark on a journey toward a healthier and more fulfilling life.

It seems overly simplistic but our mind and body are connected. There has been substantial amounts of research into the relationship between mental and physical health but you don’t have to be a scientist to ponder how this affects you personally. Most of us have experienced the effects of stress on our health, noticing how in times of stress we tend to make less healthy choices about food, sleep and alcohol use. During these times, our bodies find it more difficult to fight off illnesses and recover quickly. We also tend to find ourselves feeling fuzzy, indecisive and less good at tackling problems. Work and home life tend to suffer as well with some estimates that it costs our U.S. economy $193 billion in lost earnings each year. 

According to the 2021 Mental Health America (MHA) report, Idaho is ranked 39th out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of overall mental health status – meaning there is still a long way to come to support those in need in our communities! This low ranking may be due to the stigma associated with mental illness, as well as a lack of access to qualified clinicians to help treat them. While psychiatrists and psychologists are expected to increase in the state, as of May 2021, Idaho had under 150 psychiatrists and 700 psychologists statewide. Despite being common afflictions, some view mental illness as a personal flaw or believe that seeking help is a sign of weakness, yet would never judge a cancer patient or person with diabetes as weak for seeking professional support. Most individuals do not put their mental health crisis in the hands of a psychiatrist or therapist; it is far more likely that you will notice something wrong sooner than a medical professional and you can be the first step to getting yourself or your loved one the help they are most likely not getting. All it takes is a little knowledge and a conversation.

There are many things that can cause an individual to be more likely to experience an episode of mental illness, including traumatic experiences, genetics and poverty. Women are more likely than men to experience mental illness, as well as racial and ethnic minority groups, those living in certain geographic areas and those who identify as LGBTQ+. The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses, affecting approximately 31.1% of U.S. adults at some point in their lives. Anxiety disorders include common phobias, like the fear of snakes, as well as social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, and generalized anxiety disorder. There are a variety of successful treatments available, including medication, therapy and even virtual reality treatments.

One of the greatest impacts of depression is suicide. Suicide is a symptom of major depressive disorder and is treatable with quality interventions. Crisis hotlines like 988 and the text hotline 741741 are helpful, but simply asking directly if you suspect someone may be suicidal can save a life. It does not put the idea in the person’s head or make them more likely to hurt themselves. It shows you care and can create a conversation that may create a lasting impact.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, it is important to seek professional help from a qualified mental health provider. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a great resource and has classes and support groups. You can help fight the stigma by advocating for mental health support in your community, being vocal and proactive about your own mental health needs and encouraging fellow members of the community to get the help they need as well. By prioritizing mental health you are investing in your overall well-being. Now is the time to shift the narrative and make mental health a top priority for 2024, fostering a society where well-being is valued as much as any other aspect of life. TherapyBoise.net

Most of us have experienced the effects of stress on our health, noticing how in times of stress we tend to make less healthy choices about food, sleep and alcohol use.

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