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The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month so…  LET’S TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Because mental illness carries a stigma and one might put their illness “on the back burner,” you should know that the lack of treat­ment can have consequences. Data tells us that:

  • Mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
  • Mood disorders, including ma­jor depression, dysthymic dis­order and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
  • People with mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults in the U.S. with mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
  • Over one-third (37%) of stu­dents with a mental health con­dition age 14–21 and older who are served by special education drop out.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24 and the 2nd leading cause of death for peo­ple aged 15–24.
  • More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.
  • Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.
  • 2 million people with mental ill­ness are booked into jails each year.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Mental illness can slow us down, but we don’t need to let it stop us. Let’s avoid these consequences by getting to know all about our mental illness.

Some people with mental health conditions experience relief and hope when they get a diagnosis. Getting a diagnosis is a useful step in receiving effective treatment and improving your quality of life.

A medical professional deter­mines a diagnosis by interviewing you about your history of symptoms. Sometimes a doctor will require a couple of medical tests to rule out possible physical ailments, but we cannot evaluate mental health it­self through blood tests or other biometric data. Instead, doctors use their experience to determine how your set of symptoms fits into what we know about mental health. The diagnosis is an important tool for you and your doctor. Doctors and therapists use a diagnosis to advise you on treatment options and future health risks.

Another reason a diagnosis mat­ters is that it tells health insurance companies that you have a condi­tion requiring medical care. A doc­tor’s diagnosis is also necessary to qualify for Social Security disabili­ty support or for job protection un­der the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Even though labeling your symp­toms doesn’t automatically relieve them, congratulate yourself on hav­ing moved forward in the process of getting treatment and protecting your rights.

When your doctor talks about your condition, take notes and be­gin to “take ownership” of the di­agnosis. You may ask your doctor to recommend books and websites with additional information.

After reading about your condi­tion, you may have questions for your doctor. How do your symp­toms match this diagnosis rather than another? Couldn’t it be some­thing else? What if it’s a physical illness instead or a misunderstand­ing?

It’s important to feel that your doctor considered all the possibili­ties. If you disagree with your doc­tor’s evaluation, however, don’t automatically quit working with him or her. Your doctor is already familiar with your symptoms, and the diagnosis is simply a tool to help you and your doctor address those symptoms. If possible, it’s worth it to stick with a doctor who already knows you.

A diagnosis is only as good as the treatment it leads to. Whether or not you feel confident in your diagnosis, it’s important to reeval­uate occasionally. You and your doctor should meet to discuss your progress. Consider how treatment is helping your condition, or if it doesn’t seem to be helping. If treat­ment isn’t sufficient, other options for treatment can be considered including changing your diagnosis.

A mental health professional makes the best diagnosis possible with the information they have. Over time, as you work together, he or she will observe you, listen to you, and gather new information to help refine your diagnosis. Your diagnosis is the beginning of an in­vestigation into how to make your life better.

Just like you do things to take care of your body, there are things you can do regularly to tend to your mental well-being. The JED Foun­dation has a variety of resources to help you find ideas to add to your self-care practice. #You­MatterMN

Article by Dean Rudloff, member of the Lake County Mental Health Task Force, the North Shore Men­tal Health Group, and the Vail Place Clubhouse Coalition – organizations committed to mental wellness, sup­porting one’s ability to thrive de­spite the challenges of mental ill­ness.

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