mental wellness

New Year’s Resolution: Mental Wellness

The beginning of a new year brings hope for many, as they anticipate a fresh start and commit to sticking with their New Year’s resolutions, hopefully, a bit longer than in 2018. For others, facing another year can be daunting as they look down the long road of mental illness and wonder if they have the strength for the battle ahead.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines mental illness as a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder that is diagnosable currently or within the past year and of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria. Mental illness can range from mild, with little or no impairment, to severe, which results in functional impairment that significantly interferes with one’s ability to live normally.

Mental disorders include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Bipolar and related disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Disruptive, impulse-control and conduct disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
  • Trauma and stressor-related disorders

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18 percent of all American adults, or 43.6 million people, experienced mental illness of some kind in 2014. Women were more likely to suffer from mental illness, at a rate of 21.8 percent, versus 14.1 percent for men. Mental illness also affects all races, albeit to varying degrees, with Native Hawaiians/other Pacific Islanders affected most at a rate of 22.3 percent, followed by American Indians/Native Alaskans (21.2 percent), whites (19.2 percent), blacks (16.3 percent), Hispanics (15.6 percent) and Asians (13.1 percent).

Additionally, mental disorders don’t just pop up once adulthood hits, as one in five children under the age of 18 are currently experiencing or have previously experienced a seriously debilitating mental illness. The most common diagnosis of 8- to 15-year olds is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (8.5 percent), followed by mood disorders (3.7 percent) and major depressive disorder (2.7 percent).

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides a list of common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents, as well as one for children. NAMI also works to educate those living with a mental health condition by providing advice as varied as getting help paying for medications and securing stable housing to disclosing a mental disorder diagnosis and knowing what to do after an arrest.

Another significant part of NAMI’s mission is to support family members and caregivers of those with mental illness by providing emotional, financial and practical tips for helping their loved ones. The organization provides the following suggestions for caregivers in supporting those dealing with mental illness:

  • Learn as much as possible about mental health and your family member’s condition.
  • Show interest in your family member’s treatment plan, arrange for open communication with all physicians involved (with your family member’s permission) and encourage your family member to follow the treatment plan.
  • Strive for an atmosphere of cooperation within the family by utilizing open communication and shared responsibilities.
  • Listen carefully and express your support out loud.
  • Resume “normal” activities and routines.
  • Don’t push too hard and allow your family member to rest when necessary.
  • Find outside support in peer-led support groups.
  • Keep yourself and your family member safe by setting limits and discussing them ahead of time.
  • Prepare a crisis plan, involve the family member and ensure all family members know what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Don’t give up, try something new when setbacks occur and remind your family member that a good life is possible.

One of the most significant hurdles those with mental illness face is dealing with the stigma that comes along with a diagnosis. USA Today produced a four-part series in 2014 called “The cost of not caring: Stigma set in stone” and included a few thoughts from best-selling author Rick Warren, a pastor whose 27-year-old son suffered from schizophrenia and committed suicide the year before. He lamented that people suffering from mental illness are blamed for bringing their suffering on themselves.

“If I have diabetes, there is no stigma to that,” said Warren. “But if my brain doesn’t work, why am I supposed to be ashamed of that? It’s just another organ. People will readily admit to taking medicine for high blood pressure, but if I am taking medication for some kind of mental problem I’m having, I’m supposed to hide that.”

NAMI works to change the way mental health is perceived by raising awareness and encouraging people to take the StigmaFree Pledge. Those who do agree to learn more about mental health issues, to see the individual and not the illness, and to take action on mental health issues. Find a local NAMI affiliate in the North Texas area to get involved.

Drew Carlton, RN-BC, ACHE, administrator of Texas Health Resources’ behavioral health hospital in Corinth, said both physical health and emotional health are vital to a person’s well-being and that providing support to those in need is crucial.

“A lot can be said for being available and providing an ear to listen to what is occurring to our loved ones and co-workers,” he said. “There are numerous support groups and organizations like NAMI out there, but if symptoms become severe enough that they interfere with daily life, we recommend that you contact a behavior health facility or make an appointment with a licensed clinician.”

If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health issues, a Texas Health Physicians Group physician or licensed professional counselor can help. To find a THPG physician or counselor near you, visit or call 1-877-605-1651. The Texas Health Behavioral Health helpline is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 682-236-6023.

Learn more about how depression affects men and how you can help.

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