May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Humans have been working to unravel the mysteries of the mind for thousands of years, yet it wasn’t until the 20th century that we came to use the term “mental health” and even longer to designate Mental Health Awareness Month in May.
Over the last 100 years, our regard toward mental illness has gone from fear to understanding, although we still have a long way to go when it comes to battling the stigma and providing proper treatment.
History of Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental Health Awareness Month actually has a fascinating and very long history.
The first sanitariums opened in England during the industrial revolution, and their populations grew exponentially while social support systems were being ripped apart, and brutal working conditions replaced more humane ones.
The phenomenon was quickly replicated in the United States as the destructive aspects of industrialization continued, and the population of those who suffered from mental health problems continued to balloon.
Mental Health Awareness Month was launched in 1949 by an organization called Mental Health America, which was founded in 1909 by a gentleman named Clifford Whittingham. At the time of its founding it was known as the National Committee for Mental Hygiene.
Whittingham had suffered from mental health problems and was institutionalized a number of times, experiencing firsthand the brutal, barbaric treatment methods used for people with mental health problems.
These practices included blood letting, spinning, simulated drowning, forced restraints, beating, starvation, forced sterilization, forced lobotomies, electro-convulsive shock therapy, inducing insulin comas, and so on.
After seeing and experiencing these methods, Whittingham became an active crusader for the reform of psychiatric hospitals, and actually opened the first psychiatric outpatient facility in America.
The organization that he founded continues to do an amazing job of carrying on his mission, and Mental Health Awareness Month is one of the many ways they do it.
Unfortunately, the mistreatment of individuals with mental health issues still persists today. Our prisons are de facto psychiatric hospitals, and the proliferation of homelessness in America is another very stark sign that we are far from where we need to be.
So-called “deaths of despair” are increasing, and the addiction epidemic shows no signs of letting up.
Creating awareness, education, and developing compassion for the 20% of Americans who suffer from mental health problems is vitally important today.
That is because, despite leaving behind the worst practices of the past, we seem to carry with us an ignorance and sometimes hostility toward people who suffer from mental illness.
Much of the problem is a societal one, with a culture based on rugged individualism, unfettered competition and war, where kids go to bed hungry, and 40% of Americans don’t have $400 in case of an emergency, even after working two or three jobs.
In today’s world, isolation and joylessness are the norm, children and women aren’t protected, intergenerational trauma is passed down from generation to generation, and minorities often feel the worst brunt of these problems.
Evan Haines, co-founder of Oro House Recovery Centers says, “I personally believe the next frontier of mental health awareness will be to look at the social causes of mental health and addiction problems. As Americans, we need to better understand what mental health is, what is normal, and how as a culture and society we can best address these problems.”
Which is why Mental Health Awareness Month is so important.
Through programming, community engagement, education, and outreach, Mental Health America works to spread awareness about early identification, intervention, and recovery for those at risk.
Every year during the month of May, millions of people are reached with important messages about mental health thanks to the participation of organizations across the country.
Through media, local events, and screenings, more and more people are beginning to understand the importance of early diagnosis, effective intervention, and proper treatment before mental illness reaches Stage 4.
The Four Stages of Mental Health Disorders
When it comes to treating mental health disorders, much like physical illnesses, prevention is key.
Many times, there are warning signs that a person is at risk for a serious mental health disorder, and if the proper steps are taken to receive effective treatment early on, it’s possible to prevent the progression of the disease.
In order to reverse or stop the progression of a mental health disorder, it’s vital to recognize the symptoms of the four stages of mental health disorders.
Stage 1: Mild Symptoms and Warning Signs
In stage 1 of a mental health disorder, a person is still able to maintain his or her ability to function at work and at home, but often begins to show symptoms.
This could be in the form of high functioning depression, or a similar condition.
Family members, friends, and peers may start to notice unusual shifts in behavior and lifestyle during this early onset stage of ensuing mental health issues.
Quite often, these symptoms are so slight that they are not taken seriously and perceived as a minor coincidence.
Stage 2: Symptoms Increase and Interfere with Life Activities
In Stage 2, mental health symptoms become more apparent.
Previous symptoms may become more intense, or new symptoms begin to appear.
This makes it increasingly more difficult for a person to maintain a normal or regular routine in their work and personal life.
Stage 3: Symptoms Worsen and Create Serious Disruption in Life Activities
In Stage 3, a person may feel as though they have lost control of their life.
Symptoms may occur in relapsing and recurring episodes that increase in severity and take place simultaneously.
Sometimes during this stage, fear or anxiety about the health issues can complicate matters.
Stage 4: Symptoms are Persistent and Have Jeopardized One’s Life
The most extreme, prolonged, and persistent symptoms are categorized as Stage 4.
By this stage, a person often has developed other mental health conditions. This puts them at risk for crisis such as unemployment, homelessness, hospitalization, or incarceration.
Untreated Stage 4 mental illnesses can result in premature death.
The Importance of Dual Diagnosis
When left untreated, mental health disorders and addiction commonly co-occur together.
In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 47.6 million adults in the United States experienced a mental health issue in 2018, and 9.2 million people also experienced a co-occurring disorder of mental illness and substance use disorder.
These statistics confirm the need for dual diagnosis treatment centers, which simultaneously treat mental health and substance use disorders.
For some people living with a Dual Diagnosis, addiction develops after the onset of a mental health disorder.
For others, addiction may seemingly occur first, but is usually triggered by an underlying and undiagnosed mental health disorder.
It is very common for those struggling with a mental health disorder to use substances to self-medicate. Drugs and alcohol can temporarily alleviate the symptoms of mental health issues by increasing dopamine production and stimulating the pleasure center in the brain.
However, over time, more drugs or alcohol will be required to achieve the same effect, leading to substance use dependence and a decline of mental health.
Through the prolonged use of drugs or alcohol, some people will experience substance-induced disorders leading to mental distress.
It’s common for drug and alcohol abuse to stimulate mental health issues such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Mood disorders
While the cause for this is still widely unknown, research indicates mental health disorders that are triggered by substance use could be the result of genetic predisposition, chemical disruption in the brain, or past trauma.
No matter which disorder occurred first, mental health and substance use disorders must be treated simultaneously. Treating one without the other is insufficient and ineffective.
The Oro House Recovery Method
At Oro House Recovery Centers, we created the highest quality dual diagnosis rehab program possible by blending the most successful aspects of mental health care and substance use disorder treatment.
Our treatment team of Licensed Doctorate and Masters Level Clinicians are uniquely qualified to treat co-occurring mental health and addiction issues.
To provide the most effective treatment, and full recovery, our Compassionate Care Model® includes:
- Expert parallel treatment of mental health and substance use disorders provided by our qualified team of professionals who are proven leaders and pioneers in behavioral health and dual diagnosis treatment
- Specialized care and acknowledgement of treatment protocols integrating the importance of psychotherapeutic medications, such as antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and other psychotherapeutic medications related to the treatment of co-occurring disorders
- A supportive approach to therapy that reinforces self-esteem and builds self-confidence instead of confrontational styles with negative and aggressive statements
- An inclusive treatment strategy that brings family, partners, spouses, and other significant relationships to form an integral part of our treatment approach
Get Involved During Mental Health Awareness Month
By spreading awareness about prevention and early diagnosis, we have the power to help those at risk for serious mental health disorders and substance use disorders.
Everyone can do their part and get involved during Mental Health Awareness Month.
Participate in local events and join the conversation on social media by using the following hashtags:
Share relevant articles or your own story about mental health with others.
By openly discussing the topic of mental health, we can reduce the shame surrounding mental health disorders and combat the stigma many people fear.
For more resources, ways to get involved, events near you, and information about Mental Health Awareness Month, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.