World Mental Health Day falls on this Tuesday, October 10th. The day strives to raise awareness of mental health issues and the need for positive change. This year’s theme is “Is mental health a universal human right?” The answer is yes if humanity seeks a society where everyone has the skills to form helpful relationships with others and actualize their potential.
Unfortunately, mental health concerns still meet with a lot of stigma, which can foster ignorance. What are some myths and facts about the human psyche everyone should understand? Here are five things to know on World Mental Health Day that will help you be a better human the other 364 days of the year.
1. How Movement Affects Mood And Mindset
Could someone in your life benefit from a little movement but seems reluctant to take your advice? The problem might not be obstinance but undiagnosed depression. While exercise is a useful holistic treatment for this disorder, it’s not as simple as saying, “Go to the gym and you’ll feel better.” The disease affects levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine that motivate you, making getting off the couch a task akin to the 12 Labors of Hercules for those affected.
However, you might be more likely to try the exercise “cure” if you know how little it takes. Research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reveals only five minutes of aerobic activity begins to lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, but what does it have to do with your neurotransmitters?
Every chemical in your body affects others. When cortisol levels rise, dopamine and serotonin drop, impacting your mood. It’s one reason why traumatic stress is so bad for your mental health. However, decreasing your cortisol level prompts a corresponding increase in these neurotransmitters, uplifting your outlook. You can do anything for five minutes!
2. How Your Diet Affects Your Mood
Could your diet make you anxious or depressed? Certain deficiencies can worsen these conditions and fueling your body with the raw materials necessary to manufacture various neurotransmitters can transform your mood. What should you eat?
Start with your gut. Nurturing your microbiome — your intestine’s healthy bacterial colonies — can affect the same brain areas as synthetic antidepressants. Chow down on the following:
- Miso — fall is soup season!
Furthermore, consume more nuts, as they are high in magnesium, selenium and zinc — three minerals that positively impact mental health. Consuming deep, leafy greens and a rainbow of fruit and vegetable colors ensures your body has the nutrients it needs to make neurotransmitters.
3. How Inequality Affects Mental Health
Your health shouldn’t hinge on the contents of your wallet, but it often does in the United States. One of the biggest issues politicians ignore is how many Americans either can’t seek basic care, or won’t because doing so means choosing between their health and their housing. Medical debt creates an unfair burden for many, especially people with chronic illnesses.
Few things weigh on your mental health more than knowing you need care but lacking the means to seek it. The trauma of poverty can put entire generations at risk and few safety nets exist. This significantly affects those with invisible disabilities who may appear outwardly healthy but struggle with typical workplace demands or activities of daily living.
Unfortunately, the trauma inequality and poverty causes affects everyone in society. These individuals are more likely to lose their housing or succumb to addiction, increasing public risks. Furthermore, they’re likely to pass on their maladaptive beliefs and behaviors to their children, perpetuating the cycle.
4. How To Recognize The Signs Of A Crisis
Despite all the talk about “suicide awareness,” relatively few people know how to recognize the signs of a mental health crisis. Look for the following in yourself and your loved ones, and seek help if you notice them:
- Appearing sad, depressed or angry — all the time
- Anxiety, sudden mood swings, sleeplessness and agitation
- Feeling hopeless, as if there is no reason to live
- Feeling like a burden on everyone — excessive guilt, shame and feelings of failure
- Increased substance or alcohol use
- Loss of interest in school, work, previously enjoyed activities
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Excessive rage, violent outbursts like punching a wall
- Increased risky behaviors like drinking and driving
- Giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends, putting affairs in order
If you recognize these signs in someone you care about — or yourself — please reach out for help. The National Suicide Crisis Line advises concerned parties, not only those in crisis. Dial 988 or text “help” to 741741.
5. How To Find The Help You Need
You might be eligible for medical coverage if your life circumstances change — visit Healthcare.gov to check eligibility. Low-cost community clinics often offer assistance on a sliding scale. Plus, today’s apps can provide treatment for less than the cost of traditional therapy.
What if poverty lurks behind your crisis? You are far from alone. While not ideal, free resources can help. YouTube now allows credentialed professionals to upload verification, and highly trained professionals like Doc Snipes and Dr. Daniel Fox provide free videos loaded with advice. Dig into holistic free healing alternatives, too, such as:
- Yoga and meditation
- Spending time outdoors
- Visiting your library for books on mental health care
- Joining an online or in-person support group
- Working or spending time with animals
What To Know About World Mental Health Day
Mental health is a universal human right. In healing others, people truly uplift themselves. Educate yourself about these five things to know about World Mental Health Day. Then, find a community event or do your part to raise awareness by sharing information on social media.