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Breaking the Stigma

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health Issues, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. That’s nearly 44 million people. But only 41 percent of those people received mental health services.

Beaumont Family Medicine physician Asha Shajahan, M.D., says it’s important to remember if you feel depressed or anxious, think of it as an illness.

“It’s tough to break through the stigma of embarrassment that trails mental health,” said Dr. Shajahan. “But we need to start thinking of mental illness on the same level as diabetes or cancer,” she explained. “You’re supposed to go to the doctor when you’re sick.”

Dr. Shajahan said having an honest discussion with your doctor will help them figure out if you need a therapist, medication or psychiatrist. A lot of times, patients make an appointment with their physician for other complaints: abdominal pain, heart palpitations, trouble sleeping, etc. Talking to your physician about how you’re physically feeling can help gage how your mental health is affecting your body.

However, if you’re not sure you’re ready to make an appointment, there are other things you can try. “If you’re struggling with feelings of unrest, anxiety or depression, try joining a workplace wellness program, journaling, exercise or get outside more. All these things can help boost the chemicals in your brain to help you start feeling better,” Dr. Shajahan said.

Dr. Shajahan also recommends online screening tools to help you better understand your mental well-being. Mental Health America provides a self-screening tool to determine if you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. If you screen positive, it may be time to talk with your physician or seek professional help.

Luckily, many health insurance plans have some sort of mental health care coverage. If not, look for free resources that may be available to you. Check with your human resources department to see if your employer has a workplace wellness program.

Whatever way you decide to pursue your mental health, know that it’s an important aspect of your physical well-being and your life. Taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your heart, lungs or any other vital organ.

If you think you’re in danger of hurting yourself or others, get help now. Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 800-273-TALK (8255).

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