OPINION

Take care of yourself

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

May is mental health awareness month—did you already read the column (see below) by the Brown County Public Health nurse? Well, you should.

Caring for my mental health is a regular part of my life. My dad had some bad bouts with depression a few times, so I was familiar with how hard it can be to struggle with depression and anxiety.

As an adult I have experienced periods of depression also. I noticed it over 20 years ago. Usually I just had mild depression that would ease over time. I just muddled through, doing my best to carry on.

On a few occasions I have had serious depression that made it very difficult to do my job and complete the normal activities of daily life.

Let me tell you, that is no fun. 

That is when you need to talk to your doctor and get started on a plan to treat the depression—just like you would with any other serious medical condition.

Your doctor can prescribe medication—a process that can take some time to get right. Your doctor will also suggest therapy. In my experience, that is another process that takes time. Sometimes I felt like it didn’t help, but eventually I would start feeling better and realize it all worked together.

Right now I am feeling great! I’ve been feeling great for a couple of years. I’ve realized I might be taking medication for the long haul—and that’s okay with me. 

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as caring about your physical health. Take care!

You are Not Alone—May is Mental Health Awareness Month

By Marggi Thordson, PHN, Brown County Public Health

May is designated as the month to call attention to the millions of Americans who live with mental illnesses. Mental health disorders are very common. Statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) illustrate its prevalence. If you hear someone say “I’m a one in five,” they are referring to the one in five U.S. adults who experience mental illness in a given year. Preliminary statistics from cdc.gov show the percentage of adults who report anxiety or depression increased significantly from August 2020 to February 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, with the largest increase reported in ages 18 to 29. Almost half, or 46.4%, of U.S. adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability in the United States. NAMI’s theme this year, “You are Not Alone” speaks to numerous individuals who may be suffering in silence. NAMI’s goal is to connect people to resources. There is little doubt the pandemic increased stress levels with limited social interaction, changes in routines and uncertainty. Most people keep their mental health condition or symptoms hidden. They may feel ashamed or fear judgement. They do not want to be thought of as different or weird nor want to believe something is “wrong” with them. They worry they may be shunned or discriminated against at school or work. While making progress, there continues to be stigma attached to mental health conditions. One billboard reads “imagine if you got blamed for having cancer?” Stigma is when one is viewed negatively or treated differently because of their illness. NAMI and other mental health organizations strive to eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness. Stigma prevents people from seeking care and receiving treatment to get the support they need to lead productive lives. What can you do to support someone who may be struggling with their mental health? Statistics show that less than half of individuals who need services get the help they need. The average delay in seeking treatment is eight to 10 years. Be there for them even when it’s difficult. Let them know you are willing to listen. Try not to “fix it” or give out cliché advice. We do not know the depth of pain or feel the intensity of other people’s anxiety. Do not minimize it or accuse them of faking it. Gain knowledge of mental disorders through reading material from reputable websites, like NAMI or SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) or psychiatry.org. If you are experiencing significant symptoms that interfere with your daily living or work, the first step is to acknowledge you may need help. Mental illness is treatable and mental wellness or “brain health” can be restored. Avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs as your symptoms could get worse. If you have a primary care provider you may start there. Or call local professional therapy services in your area. Many offer on-line services and telehealth so it may not require you to leave your home. If you have access to a computer, the nami.org website will connect you to resources or to free online support groups. Most importantly remember “You are Not Alone” and you do not have to suffer in silence. Statistics were sourced from Nami.org site that pools information from studies by organizations including SAMHSA, CDC and US Department of Justice. NAMI help line is 800-950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. In a crisis you can text NAMI to 741741 or call 800-273-TALK (8256) 24/7 crisis line.