Let’s talk. Really talk. Like out-in-the-open, I’m-not-scared, it’s-the-21st-Century-for-goodness’-sake talk. Our topic? Mental health. 

Gulp. Nervous laugh. 

Still with me? Excellent. Grab a cup of coffee. Settle in. Let’s pull back the heavy curtain and talk. 

Listen, everyone has good days and bad days. Some have more good than bad at the moment. Some have more bad than good. The point is… whether you’re struggling with a known disorder or simply trying to keep your head above water, your mental health matters. It affects every facet of your life. 

mental health

It’s Not Just You

Studies suggest that 1 in 5 adults in America struggle with mental illness. That’s 20 percent of the population. That’s four people in your cul-de-sac. That is millions of people in the United States alone. 

Is that you? Is that several of your friends? Do you talk about it? If not, there’s no time like today. Mental illness is common. Let me repeat that: Mental illness is common. 

If this is you, you are not alone

Even if your mental health condition is serious, you are in good company. One in 20 American adults have serious mental illness. But you know what? The more we share about our experiences, the more we can help each other overcome. So let’s work together to remove stigmas, raise public awareness and get help for those who need it.

A Quick History Lesson

For hundreds — perhaps thousands — of years, society considered mental illness the work of the devil or punishment for sins. Treatments were equally awful and ranged from exorcism and trephining (drilling a hole in the head to release the spirit) to lengthy asylum stays and even lobotomies

Shudder. 

In 1908, Clifford Beers wrote A Mind That Found Itself, an autobiography that chronicles his suicide attempt and confinement to an insane asylum. The book ends with Beers making the case for outpatient care — he believed that most people with mental illness would be better served by remaining in their homes and getting periodic care/therapy in a nearby community setting.

It took awhile, but Beers’ advocacy (and others’) eventually paid off. 

In the 1950s, Chlorpromazine became the first medication used to help treat mental illness. It is still used today. The number of institutionalized mentally ill patients fell from its peak of 560,000 in the 1950s to 130,000 by 1980. Today, the total number of state psychiatric beds in the U.S. sits around 37,000, with most beds on short-term units in general medical hospitals. By the 1960s, there were more than 60 kinds of psychotherapy in use. 

These days, countless options are available, including various forms of talk therapy and medicine therapy. 

Who Does Mental Illness Affect? 

In short, anyone. Men, women, moms, dads, grandparents, teenagers, children, single people, married people. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. Alarming is that the average delay between the onset of symptoms and receiving treatment is 11 years, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

Eleven years! 

That is far too long — far too much life lived in fear or pain or numbness. And imagine the ripple effect through your family, friends and workplace. Get help. Take the first step. There is zero shame in caring for your mental health. Take pride in it. 

And help others, if you can. Is it your child whose mental health is suffering? Your friend? Your spouse? Ask questions. Seek answers. Listen. Help them find help. No matter the situation, just take the first step. Then, the next. There are nearly limitless resources. Read on…

Warning Signs

Many factors contribute to mental health issues, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Early Warning Signs: 

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

Resources for Mental Health: 

Ways to Maintain Positive Mental Health Include:

  • Getting professional help if you need it
  • Connecting with others
  • Staying positive
  • Getting physically active
  • Helping others
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing coping skills

OK… Now onto the down-in-the-trenches, real-life feelings, advice and tips from other moms across America. These writers from City Mom Collective’s many sister sites know what they’re talking about. They’ve been there. 

So read their stories. Listen to their hearts. Try some of their tips. And if you’re still lost? Drop a comment below. Maybe someone in our network or reading this story has walked your road and has some thoughts or additional resources for you. We are mamas, too. And we care about you.  

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