Mental illnesses affect tens of millions of people in the United States. In fact, nearly 1 in every 5 Americans currently live with a mental health disorder. The prevalence of mental illness is much higher among women than men. For example, women are about 50 percent more likely than men to be diagnosed with a mood disorder like depression, and 60 percent more likely to have an anxiety disorder.
Unfortunately, only half of people with a mental health disorder receive the proper treatment.
There is no doubt that mental health disorders are common in America. They can affect our neighbors, our friends, our family members, no matter their age or living situations. Our daughters, our sisters, and our wives are especially at risk. But despite its prevalence, those struggling with mental illness are often too scared to get help. Often, they are afraid of what others might think, or how others might act, if they were more open about it.
This May, we recognize Mental Health Month, a month-long observance, and Women’s Health Week, which took place from May 9 to May 15, 2021. Today, we recognize all of the people battling a mental health disorder – depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and more – and support them in their treatment and recovery journeys. We also recognize the many women out there struggling with mental health issues, and encourage them to speak up and seek the help they deserve.
About Mental Health Month
Since 1949, Mental Health America has observed May as Mental Health Month in the United States. Mental Health Month is a national observance designed to spread awareness and normalize the regularity of mental illness in America. In addition, it is an opportunity to take time to recognize the importance of mental health, to assess our own mental health, and to take care of ourselves – now, more than ever before.
This May is especially important. As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19, more regulations are being lifted and we are starting to see (and even hug) loved ones again. At the same time, however, we cannot forget the detriment that the prior 14 months have caused. The global pandemic took lives, it took people’s jobs and income, and it forced us all to stay home, to stay safe, away from family and friends. Undeniably, this has had a great impact on our mental health. Now more than ever, people are coping with the aftermath of the pandemic. Those who were already struggling with mental health disorders (like anxiety, depression, and stress disorders) have had a particular hard time.
A study from January 2021 showed that anxiety and depressive disorders are more prevalent than ever. Specifically, about 4 in 10 American adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic – this is up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019. Many of these adults also reported difficulty sleeping (36%) and eating (32%), as well as increases in substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions due to worry and stress (12%).
Additionally, this study found that the majority of young adults (56%), also reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. Compared to all adults, young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to report substance use and suicidal thoughts, too.
During the pandemic, as well as prior to COVID-19, women have also reported higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to men. In December 2020, 47% of women reported symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder, compared to 38% of men.
This is just the beginning. The CDC also reported that symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as the number of untreated cases, have significantly increased between August 2020 and February 2021. As more research continues to surface about the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, there will be a growing need to spread awareness and support our loved ones, and neighbors, in need.
“Now more than ever, we need to find ways to stay connected with our community. No one should feel alone or without the information, support, and help they need.” - the National Alliance on Mental Illness
So, for Mental Health Month 2021, Mental Health America is sharing practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase resiliency, regardless of their current situation. Among other topics, this toolkit includes tips for creating healthy routines, eliminating toxic influences, and supporting loved ones who are struggling with their mental health.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is also getting involved, with a campaign called “You are Not Alone.” This movement is designed to help those affected by mental illness to fight the stigma, by educating the public about mental health and inspiring others to speak up and get the help they need. There are millions of Americans battling a mental illness today. If you are battling a mental health disorder, it is important to know that you are not alone, despite how isolated you may feel now. In these times of social distancing, NAMI has provided an array of digital tools to connect those in the mental health community with the support they deserve.
The NAMI also has a campaign called “WhyCare?” which is designed to spread the importance of mental health treatment, support, and services. Mental health disorders – whether moderate or severe – can lead to other, negative implications for those affected. These include disruptions in work, school, and day-to-day life, as well as the inability to maintain relationships, and a heightened risk for substance use disorders. Dedicated treatment and ongoing support for mental health and co-occurring disorders is key to establishing a healthy and happy life long-term.
About Women’s Health Week
National Women’s Health Week is a weeklong health observance designed to raise awareness about the manageable steps women and girls can take to improve their health and wellbeing. This year, Women’s Health Week fell between May 9th and May 15th, 2021.
Given the current situation of women across the world, and women’s propensity to mental health issues, National Women’s Health Week 2021 is largely about staying healthy – mentally and physically – as we continue to fight and overcome COVID-19. According to the National Office on Women’s Health:
“The week May 9-15, 2021 serves as a reminder for women and girls, especially during the outbreak of COVID-19, to make their health a priority and take care of themselves. It is extremely important for all women and girls, especially those with underlying health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, and women 65 years and older, to take care of your health now.”
During this time, women can take care of their mental and physical health by:
- Continuing to protect yourself against COVID-19, which may involve getting a vaccine when it becomes available to you. The Office on Women’s Health also encourages women to talk about the importance of vaccines with family and friends, to spread awareness on its benefits.
- Talking to your healthcare provider about any concerns you may have about your health. For example, if stress, depression, or anxiety is getting in the way of your daily activities, be sure to talk to your physician about potential treatments or ways to cope.
- Staying up to date on preventive measures, such as physical exams, mammograms, stress tests, blood pressure screenings, PAP smears, and more – particularly if you missed any appointments during the pandemic.
- Staying active. Experts recommend getting outside for much-needed sunshine, and staying physically active for at least 30 minutes a day. They also recommend strengthening exercises to help build muscle, particularly for those that had COVID-19.
- Taking care of your mental health, by:
- Staying connected to family and friends
- Getting outside for air
- Practicing good sleeping habits
- Finding healthy ways to manage stress (such as exercise)
- Monitoring alcohol intake, and avoiding illicit drugs
Remember, women are more susceptible to mental health conditions than men. According to national sources, more than 1 in 5 women in the United States experienced a mental health condition in the past year, such as depression or anxiety. While serious mental health conditions cannot be cured, they can be treated. Living a happy and healthy life is possible for you or your loved one, with the right steps. If you or anyone you know is experiencing changes in thinking, mood, behavior, and/or thoughts of self-harm, we encourage you to reach out for help. You can always call SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or Turnbridge’s treatment center for young women, 877-581-1793.
How to Get Involved This May
This Mental Health Month, there are many ways you can get involved. This includes spreading the message of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, that no one is alone in their mental health, and that help is always available. The NAMI also encourages those battling a mental illness, or in recovery, to share their stories about the importance of mental health, how others have supported you, and what it means to have access to care. Sharing your story can help thousands of other people in similar shoes, especially during this time of social isolation. You can do so using the link below:
You can also find a variety of handouts and information by visiting the Mental Health America website:
In recognition of Women’s Health Week, there are a variety of online resources available to you. The Office on Women’s Health invites you to use social media to share your journey, and what steps you’re taking to maintain good health. Just use the hashtags #NWHW and #FindYourHealth in your posts. You may also use their online tool to receive customized tips on how to improve your healthy eating and physical activity habits, which can promote strong mental health.
Turnbridge also has a variety of resources available regarding mental health and addiction. If your loved one is struggling with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders, please do not hesitate to explore our website or call us at 877-581-1793. We have dedicated, gender-specific programs for both young men and women battling co-occurring disorders. We are always here for you. Learn more about our treatment program for young women here, or browse the below resources for more information: