May 6, 2014
Mental Health Awareness
Many of us work hard to adhere to a healthy lifestyle. We eat right, exercise and ensure that we are getting ample amounts of sleep. However, we often overlook the fact that a healthy mind is just as important to our overall well-being as a healthy body.
May marks Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we are dedicated to raising awareness for mental health, improving our overall well-being, and reducing the harmful, negative stigmas associated with mental illness.
Too often poor mental health is linked to negative and often inaccurate portrayals of individuals dealing with mental illness or addictive disorders. These misconceptions discriminate against those who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. Moreover, these preconceptions limit the scope of what truly constitutes “mental health” and foster an atmosphere in which it may feel shameful or unacceptable to seek help. We should be fighting to ensure that individuals have access to the care and help that they need rather than reinforcing this destructive stigma.
Mental health has rapidly become a public health issue. As our personal and professional lives have become progressively busier and more chaotic, we are facing increasing stress in our daily lives, and how well we cope with everyday challenges directly influences mental well-being. Nearly 70 percent of Americans will experience symptoms of stress (both physical and nonphysical). In addition, approximately one in five Americans 18 years of age or older will experience a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year, and nearly half will experience one in their lifetime.
Spurred by this increasing need for mental health services, the Wisconsin State Senate has worked diligently to improve the access and quality of the programs available to citizens around the state. This past session, we passed a bill creating a Milwaukee County Mental Health Board. The board is dedicated to effectively and efficiently delivering mental health programs and services to Milwaukee County. These recovery-oriented, individual-focused, community-based services seek to create a healthy, inviting atmosphere in which community members feel comfortable seeking the help that they need.
We have a responsibility to ourselves and our community to not only look out for our own health and well-being, but also provide easily accessible resources for those in need of mental health services. Through community-based initiatives designed to aid our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors, we can reduce the damaging stigmas surrounding mental health.
Mental Health Awareness Month is a chance to reevaluate the impact mental health takes on our individual lives and our community. How you feel has great influence over how well your mind and body function. Poor mental health can make even the simplest daily tasks very difficult. Finally, this month also provides an opportunity to recommit ourselves to a healthier lifestyle.
Remember: healthy mind, healthy body!