When discussing mental health and mental illness, it’s critically important to make the distinction. A mental illness is a condition specifically diagnosed by a physician or a licensed therapist that needs a specific course of treatment. Mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
Like physical health, there are many components to mental health, and you can be generally mentally healthy even with an issue—just as you can be generally physically healthy even with a bad knee. Conversely, you can have a mental illness, but with the appropriate treatment and care—just as you’d get a physical illness or injury treated—you can be mentally healthy overall, and even flourish.
Given the pandemic, the state of mental health throughout the country has not flourished the last few years. Depression and anxiety levels have risen, people have felt more isolated, drug overdoses and deaths have increased after a period of decline, access to care was limited, and youth were particularly hit hard with so many of their in-person social systems put on hold. Between the amount of Americans in mental distress and caregivers themselves struggling and in fewer numbers, it’s not a stretch to say we’re currently in a mental health crisis.
Which is why it’s more important than ever to remember—just as you shouldn’t ignore knee pain, you shouldn’t ignore mental health distress. Anxiety happens naturally, but when it festers and begins to impact your relationships, your work, and your day-today function and routine, it then moves into the wide spectrum of mental illness.
There are things you can do regularly to help. Meditation. Deep breathing. Exercise and eating well. And it’s so important to acknowledge when you’re feeling symptoms. Talk with someone if necessary, be it a friend, a loved one or even a professional. One good thing that came out of the pandemic was increased access to professional care through telehealth.
Mental health and substance use disorders are too often silent, stigmatized illnesses, but everyone deserves to feel content, and prevention and early intervention are key. By acknowledging the problem and addressing it, we can not only get better, but thrive.
If someone you know is experiencing any mental health or substance use issues, check out the season premiere of the Rosecrance podcast “On Your Radar,” which covers mental health, mental illness, the current mental health crisis, and what to do if you’re struggling.
Download “Defining Mental Health, Mental Illness, and a Mental Health Crisis” series 1 episode 1, HERE.