Since its founding in 1872, the American Public Health Association (APHA) has been an advocate of improving the health of all U.S. residents. Every April, the APHA hosts National Public Health Week, a campaign to educate the public on current health issues. This year’s theme is Looking Back, Moving Forward, and its focus is on mental health (Monday), maternal and children’s health (Tuesday), violence prevention (Wednesday), environmental health (Thursday), education (Friday), healthy housing (Saturday), and economics (Sunday).
Monday Is Mental Health Day
Mental illness is prevalent in modern society. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that one out of five adult Americans and one in six youths experience some type of mental disorder. Currently, during the COVID-19 outbreak, isolation, quarantine, and fear of becoming ill are taxing everyone’s mental health, especially those working in health care and in grocery and food service and those experiencing symptoms or have family members who are sick or even dying.
Problems experienced by the mentally ill have a ripple effect through society, touching many lives, and appear in the form of substance abuse, unemployment, incarceration, and homelessness. Suicide also is a dire concern, with suicide rates for the 10 to 14 age group alone having nearly tripled from 2007 to 2017.
Signs to Watch Out For
Seeking help is important, but it is often difficult for family members to discern between expected behaviors and mental illness. Signs of mental illness include:
• Excessive worry or fear
• Undue sadness
• Trouble concentrating or focusing
• Extreme highs and extreme lows
• Sleep changes
• Difficulty perceiving the real from the imagined
• Substance abuse, including alcohol
• Suicidal thoughts
• Inability to perform daily activities
Early help can be crucial. Signs of mental illness in youth include:
• Frequent displays of disobedience or aggression
• Excessive temper tantrums
• Hyperactive behavior
• Excessive worry or anxiety
• Frequent nightmares
• Changes in school performance
Get Help Now
If you suspect mental illness in yourself or a loved one, contact the experienced and trained staff who work around the clock at NAMI San Diego by calling 800-523-5933. For crisis situations, contact the access and crisis number at 888-724-7240 or by dialing 2-1-1. Free crisis counseling also is available 24 hours a day by texting “NAMI” to 741-741. Visit NAMI San Diego online at https://namisandiego.org/.
For those experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. For the hard of hearing, dial 800-799-4889. Para ayuda en Español, llame 888-628-9454. For more information, visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
If addiction becomes a problem, SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), a group that supports individuals in gaining independence from addictive substances, can help. The Herrick Community Health Care Library hosts SMART Recovery meetings for both recovering addicts (Tuesdays from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm) and their families and friends (Thursdays from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm). During the coronavirus pandemic, virtual meetings are available for both sets of attendees. See https://www.smartrecoverysd.org/meetings/ for a list of online meetings.
It’s Up 2 Us has a list of resources for those in crisis, looking for referrals, or needing information on all sorts of mental illness issues, including bipolar disorder, depression, and postpartum depression. See https://up2sd.org/resources/mental-health-local/.
Mental Health and the Coronavirus Pandemic
The World Health Organization has published a resource titled “Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations during the COVID-19 Outbreak,” which is available at https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_2. As well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering tips on managing stress and anxiety at this time. See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.
Sources: It’s Up 2 Us, https://up2sd.org/resources/mental-health-local/; National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Mental Health by the Numbers,” https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers; “NAMI Helpline,” https://nami.org/Find-Support/NAMI-HelpLine; National Public Health Week, “Mental Health,” http://www.nphw.org/nphw-2020/mental-health; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/; SMART Recovery, https://www.smartrecoverysd.org/.