Recognizing Mental Health Disorders

Mental health can be defined as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to his or her community.” In contrast, a mental health disorder is a diagnosable illness that affects a person’s thinking, emotional state, and behavior and disrupts the person’s ability to work, carry out other daily activities, and engage in satisfying personal relationships. All of us exist somewhere on a spectrum ranging from good mental health to having a mental health disorder. Stress at work, financial problems, health issues, excessive drinking, and social or family problems can move someone from the healthy to unhealthy end of the spectrum.

Approximately 18% of adults in the US will experience a mental health disorder in any given year. The most common mental health disorders are anxiety and depression, but also include substance use disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, and schizophrenia. Often an individual will experience more than one of these conditions at the same time. Only about 40% percent of people with a mental health disorder in any given year will seek professional help for it.

For those suffering at the extreme end of the mental health disorder spectrum, suicide is sometimes seen as an option for ending suffering. Suicide is the tenth most common cause of death in the US, with 45,000 suicides in the US each year. White males between the ages of 45 and 65 are the most common group to die because of suicide. Farmers have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession.

Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Disorders

While there are many different mental health disorders, common signs and symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • An unusually sad mood. Feeling anger or rage. Irritability. Change in mood.
  • Loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. Withdrawing from friends.
  • Lack of energy and tiredness.
  • Feeling worthless. No sense of purpose.
  • Thinking about death and wishing to be dead. Threatening to kill or injure oneself.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
  • Being agitated.
  • Change in eating behavior. Loss of interest in food or eating too much.
  • Change in sleeping patterns. Not sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Acting reckless.
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use.
  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing.
  • Dizziness, headache.
  • Unrealistic and/or excessive fear or worry.
  • Statements, such as: “I’m a failure.”, “Nobody cares.”, “Everyone would be better off without me.”

What to Do If You or Someone You Know is Suffering from a Mental Health Disorder

If a barn is lost in a fire or natural disaster or someone suffers a physical injury neighbors, friends, and family will often respond to help the farm or individual recover. In the case of an individual suffering from a mental health disorder this response is often lacking. The lack of response may be related to our uncertainty about what to do or it may be related to our inability to see the condition. The inability to see someone is suffering from a mental disorder may cause the person to be labeled as lazy, uncooperative, or not really ill.

If you suspect someone is suffering from a mental health disorder, sometimes the best thing you can do is simply ask, “How are you doing?”. Try to get them to open up without pressuring them and then just listen without judging, interrupting, or offering advice. If someone is an immediate danger to themselves or others, call 911 or a suicide prevention hotline. After listening to the person, you may want to recommend they seek professional help (primary care physician, mental health professional, or certified peer specialist) and suggest some self-help options (talk with family, friends, or church members, participate in a peer support group, read a book, change diet, exercise, etc.).

If you or a friend or family member are suffering from a mental health disorder, a variety of mental health resources can be found on the:

Portions of this article were adopted from:

 
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