APU Health & Fitness Original

Mental Health Awareness Month: Check Your Mental Health

By Dr. Carol Hoban
Faculty Member, School of Health Sciences

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it is the perfect time to check in on your own mental health. As we all get back to some type of “normal” living, the pandemic continues to decline and create yet more changes in our lives.

More of us are going back to in-person work, school or other responsibilities. Our lives are becoming more hectic and fast-paced, which adds to the mental stress we deal with every day. 

For example, we might have worked from home during the pandemic. Now, we are faced with the struggles of commuting to work every day and trying to get everything done on our never-ending “to-do” lists. 

Related link: University Resources to Help You with COVID-19 Burnout

Mental Health in the US

Mental illness impacts millions of Americans each day and can be expressed in many ways. Some people may feel depressed and do not want to participate in daily life activities, while others think about ending their lives.

Mental illness can be seen in adults and children, and 58% percent of mental illness disorders are noticeable in children under 14. In addition, severe depression contributes to many other disorders, such as alcohol abuse, substance abuse and suicide. In 2020, suicide was listed as the 12th leading cause of death, with over one million people attempting suicide.

These shocking statistics make it even more necessary to examine your mental health and the health of others around you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an excellent quiz that can teach you more about mental health.

Related link: Living Life to the Fullest: Are You Pouring in What You’re Pouring Out?

This Year’s Theme for Mental Health Awareness Month Emphasizes the Spirit of Community

This year, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Month is “Together for mental health,” which reinforces the message that we are all in this world together. We all need support in one form or another to get through whatever life throws at us; we can’t do it alone. 

Talking with our family and friends can help us to get through our daily struggles, and leaning on others when life gets to be too hectic can help us feel less alone. There are several other ways to maintain our mental health, including:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising
  • Meditating
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding the use of certain medications (for example, opioids)

As spring begins for us and with summer just around the corner, now is a good time to get outside and enjoy nature. Connecting with nature might be the stress relief many of us need after the past couple of years. 

For more information on ways to cope with mental illness and how to get help, the CDC has more resources available online. In addition, the University has an organization called Active Minds to help our current students, alumni, faculty and university staff members to handle mental health issues. There is no fee to join, and you will be a part of a community that seeks to educate, provide resources and assist persons dealing with mental health problems.

Dr. Hoban earned her Ph.D. in cellular molecular biology and physiology from Georgia State University in 2008. She earned her MPH degree in 1997 from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Dr. Hoban has worked in maternal and child health and vaccine-preventable diseases. She was the project director for the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) in Georgia for over six years and was also the project director for the Georgia Immunization Study for over seven years. Dr. Hoban has numerous published articles based on her work in both vaccine-preventable diseases and maternal and child health. She is also currently a peer reviewer for the Maternal and Child Health Journal.

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