Opinion Commentary: Mental Illness, Discrimination, and Support in Minnesota – Austin Daily Herald

Opinion Commentary: Mental Illness, Discrimination, and Support in Minnesota

Published Friday 30 September 2022 17:06

By Sue Abderholden

Managing Director of NAMI Minnesota

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) will be held October 3-8. It’s time to raise awareness about mental illness, fight discrimination and support those whose lives have been impacted. It’s gaining traction this year because so many people are suffering from poor mental health as a result of the impact of the pandemic. Anxiety and depression have increased dramatically. We can see the fear in our community – People who are short-tempered or easily frustrated.

Mental illness is rampant — affecting one in five people — so it’s time to speak up about it so people seek help early, when it’s most effective. It is also important to remember that it is a young disease, with 50% onset by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24.

Mental health, like health, is a continuum. There’s good mental health, bad mental health, and then mental illness. While there are many things we can do to maintain good mental health, such as: Things like getting a good night’s sleep, staying connected with others, moving each day, and practicing mindfulness—but there are additional steps needed to address a mental illness.

The first step is identification. When we think of symptoms, we consider duration and intensity. People need to take the next step as they go on for several weeks and start interfering in life. Symptoms include:

• Feel sad

• Inability to concentrate

• Excessive concern

• Changes in mood, endurance, sleeping habits, eating habits

• Not finding joy in activities

• Withdrawing from friends and family

• Experiencing delusions, paranoia or hallucinations

• Difficulty dealing with stress

• Overly emotional – bursting into tears, anger

• Headache, abdominal pain, tachycardia

The second step is to contact your GP or a psychologist. You can find a psychiatrist through your health insurance network or Fasttrackermn.org. Mental health centers across the state also offer sliding fee services.

The third step is to talk about it. Turn to others when you need help with shopping, caring for children, or cleaning your home. Having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. As with any health issue, sometimes we need help, and it’s okay to ask for it. And if you know someone is struggling, reach out to them. Offer to help, take them for a walk, send get well cards.

The good news is that recovery is possible – people get better. The bad news is that our mental health system was never built and we have increased need and decreased access. NAMI Minnesota and others will continue to lobby lawmakers to increase funding for our mental health system so treatment can be accessed when and where it is needed.

Take time this MIAW week to learn more about mental illness, mention the need for increased funding to those running for elected office, and reach out to someone you know who has support and help could use. NAMI Minnesota invites you to our FREE online MIAW course series. The calendar can be found on our website www.namimn.org.

Remember, if someone is having suicidal thoughts or is approaching a mental health crisis, call 988 where a trained counselor is available to answer your call 24 hours a day.

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