It’s National Prevention Week. Day One’s Focus: Mental Health

Out of all the health issues we face today, perhaps one that the public most misunderstands is mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, mental illnesses are “conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic) and affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.”

Mental health issues are more common than you might think. In 2014, “about one in five American adults experienced a mental health issue, one in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression, and one in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

When we don’t understand someone, sometimes we can react to them out of fear rather than the compassion that they need. People with mental illness are rarely dangerous to others; in fact, people with serious mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than the perpetrators of violent acts, according to the American Mental Health Counselors Association.

“People with serious mental illness are rarely violent,” reads their website. “Only 3 to 5 percent of all violence, including but not limited to firearm violence, is attributable to serious mental illness. The large majority of gun violence toward others is not caused by mental illness.”

Just as you take measures to prevent physical illnesses, it’s important to take care of your mental health as well. You probably know instinctively what will work best for you, but eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep, finding ways to relax, regularly exercising in a way you enjoy, and spending time with people who love you are all things that will help protect your mental health.

But as with our physical health, sometimes we can do all the right things and still need to get professional help, and there’s no shame in that. Here is a great webpage from the American Psychological Association to help guide you in the process of finding help.