Young Male Adult

The next time you see your doctor, don’t be surprised if they ask about your mental health. When it comes to your overall well-being, managing your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health.

But many people fail to prioritize their mental health — or they simply ignore it. Here’s why you should change that.

Consequences of Mental Health Issues

Mental illness covers a range of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. This includes major depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, you’re not alone. In the United States, nearly 21% of adults live with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Despite the frequency, the NIMH estimates that only half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment.

Like other serious diseases, such as cancer or diabetes, mental illness is a medical issue that requires treatment. Left untreated, mental illness can get worse and lead to other health issues.

People with severe depression, for example, are 3.1 times more likely to have cardiovascular problems than people without depression. Those with mild to moderate depression were 1.4 times more likely to have poor heart health. That’s according to a recent study by the American Heart Association.

Mental health also impacts quality of life, such as your ability to perform daily tasks or keep a job or a relationship. Depression is also a risk factor for self-harm and suicide.

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Self-Care Tips to Manage Mental Health

These self-care tips can help protect your mental health, no matter your mental health status. They can also help you manage mild or situational mental health issues lasting less than 2 weeks.

  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Socialize, either in person or virtually.
  • Get adequate and consistent sleep.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Confide in a trusted friend or family member.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation or other relaxation techniques, such as yoga or tai chi.

Signs of Mental Illness

The impact of mental illness can range from mild to severe impairment. Symptoms of mental illness depend on the disorder. The following are common signs for adults and adolescents, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and NIMH:

  • Feeling down or unusually sad.
  • Extreme mood changes, including extreme euphoria or feeling “high”.
  • Sleep problems, either sleeping too much or not being able to sleep.
  • Feeling tired for no reason.
  • Physical ailments without a cause, such as headache, stomach ache, or general pain.
  • Appetite changes.
  • Gaining or losing weight without trying.
  • Changes in sex drive.
  • Difficulty getting out of bed because of mood.
  • Difficulty focusing or learning.
  • Confused thinking.
  • Excessive worries or fears.
  • Feelings of guilt or lack of self-worth.
  • Avoiding friends, family, or other social contacts.
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed.
  • Unable to perform routine daily tasks, such as work or cleaning your home.
  • Excessive alcohol use or substance abuse.
  • Flawed perception of reality, such as hallucinations or hearing voices.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

When You Should Seek Help

It’s normal to feel sad or anxious depending on what’s going on in your life. The death of a loved one or a job loss can cause situational depression or anxiety. These mental health challenges can be temporary — or they may trigger underlying mental health issues.

You can often manage mild symptoms (those that don’t interfere with daily tasks) with the self-care tips listed above. But you should seek professional medical help if mild to severe symptoms last 2 weeks or more.

If you are in crisis or have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, get help immediately. Call resolve Crisis Services at 1-888-796-8226 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For more information, Call UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital at 1-877-624-4100 or 412-624-1000.

My Mental Health: Do I Need Help? National Institute of Mental Health. Link.

Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Link.

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.