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Mental Health Awareness week is Oct. 2-8

By Staff | Oct 5, 2016

Mental illness is a public health concern that tends to get swept under the rug. When the country suffers an instance of mass violence, typically committed by a white male “lone wolf,” leaders stand in front of the cameras to say we must do something about the mental health crisis in this nation.

Some of these same leaders then cut existing funding and resist proposals for new initiatives when they get back to the legislature.

For a health condition that affects one in four Americans in a lifetime, the funding is woefully low for both community based treatment and for new research.

The door is opening in painfully slow increments to the use of CBD, cannabidiol, mostly for people with intractable seizures, though it’s been shown to help in glaucoma, recovery from the effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients, as well as episodes of mania in bipolar disorder and cycles of paranoia and delusions in schizophrenia, as well as brain changes in PTSD and brain injury, but we aren’t sure because researchers generally cannot access the plant for research purposes.

Most mental illness is caused by changes in wiring in the brain, and there are interventions from mindfulness meditation to CBD to various forms of therapy with a professional, all of which show scientific evidence of working.

But most psychiatry clinics are working on the prescription medicine model. They work for some, and no one now taking a prescription under a doctor’s care should stop taking it without speaking to a doctor. Insurance companies will pay for prescriptions, but often not for ongoing talk therapy, training in mindfulness meditation, or other treatments.

Although acceptance toward anti-depressant medication, appointments with psychologists and being open with one’s feelings is on a steady rise, more often than not, people experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD or other similar disabilities and disorders typically resort to bottling up their feelings rather than finding ways to help themselves.

Two-thirds of college students who are struggling with some form of mental-health ailments do not seek out the help they need to take care of their emotional well-being, often leading to serious consequences. In the United States, one in every 12 college students has made an actionable suicide plan, according to USA Today.

According to the American Psychological Association, which surveyed college counseling directors from all around the country, the number of college students with significant psychological health problems has increased and is steadily becoming a more urgent problem on campuses. Furthermore, 19 percent of the surveyed directors stated that their college campus counseling centers offered an inadequate amount of psychiatric services.

While it is important to ensure that students with mental health issues get the thorough, patient and compassionate care they need to cope with their struggles, students and professors alike should remember that one does not have to have a diagnosed mental health problem in order to seek out help from a counseling center, a psychologist or even a psychiatrist.

Rhetoric around raising awareness for mental health disorders and disabilities is increasing; however, there has also been a simultaneous increase in demand for official diagnoses from doctors to have feelings and experiences validated.

Regardless of whether or not one has a diagnosed mental health disorder or disability or is just feeling overwhelmed and stressed, everyone needs a break now and then. There is some good news, even here in Iowa where we rank 49th of 50th in mental health care.

The University of Northern Iowa is leading a change in mental illness awareness, bringing it to a new level. The students have organized mental health week, calling it, “You matter at UNI.”?

Student government reps followed through on a campaign promise. In the wake of at least two students dying by suicide last school year.

UNI?also now has a group on campus called Active Minds, which focuses on mental health.

The campus also has a chapter of To Write Love on her Arms, a group that seeks to counter the act of cutting oneself to seek relief from emotional pain with loving messages written on the skin in Sharpie instead, with the larger goal of making help such as therapy available to people who are struggling.

Therapist Amanda Olson of A Champion State of Mind in Estherville said there were many ways everyone could maintain and improve his or her mental health.

Olson said, “To gain and/or maintain mental wellness, it is important that individuals seek an overall balance within their lives Body, Mind, Soul and Spirit.”

Olson said a lot of health comes from conventional wisdom.

“Eat healthy foods and stay hydrated, exercise on a consistent basis, get plenty of sleep while following a sleep schedule, take time for yourself either by doing something that you enjoy or find time to calm your mind through a hobby, meditation and/or exercise, engage in social activities with people who positively encourage and support you, refrain from unhealthy behaviors such as the use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol and continue to work with your medical providers by following their recommendations. Remember, that we will all have highs and lows in life, but when we find we are struggling it is important to reach out for help. We are all in this world together.”

It’s not shameful to seek out help to cope with whatever might be going on in one’s life.

Part of the issue with people seeking mental health care is the stigma. That has changed in recent years, but unfortunately it has taken the deaths of stars by suicide or drug overdose, and the suffering from PTSD?(post-traumatic stress disorder)?of the nation’s revered military personnel to increase acceptance of people with mental illness.

Notable people who have lived with mental illness and still accomplished extraordinary things include Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, whose depression was so severe at times, friends kept a 24 hour suicide watch.

Columnist Art Buchwald, who was a lot funnier than I am, had bipolar disorder.

The actress Catherine Zeta-Jones had a rather public battle with bipolar disorder a couple of years ago.

The number of writers, artists, actors, directors, fashion designers, and musicians with depression or bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression)?is so long, there are probably more greats who have it than do not.

Author Amanda Green has a list of more than 300, from Winston Churchill to Vincent Van Gogh, Winona Ryder to Uma Thurman.

It’s difficult for the ones who are not a?Hollywood star, a world leader, or a famous artist, but simply try to live each day in, say, rural Iowa, wondering if it’s contained enough to wander out into the neighborhood and show their true selves to others.