Friends, it’s not too late. I thought I’d missed it: National Mental Health Month. But the 31st of May gives us one more day to consider our demons publicly and do something about them.
This is not a frivolous issue. Unfortunately, mental disorders are common today. The US Department of Health and Human Services claims that approximately 22.1 percent of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. As well, mental health problems affect one in five young people.
What constitutes good mental health? Qualities such as happiness, contentment, respect for oneself and for others come to mind. As well, kindness, compassion, integrity, persistence and of course, sound morals. Did I mention humor? Humor adds balance and perspective. This list of wonderful, desirable, mentally healthful qualities goes on and on. Unfortunately, so do their opposites, as many a sufferer or loved one would attest. Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, anger mismanagement, violence, hatred and lack of self-control, if intense and prolonged, are all indicators of poor mental health.
For most of us, the regular exercise of healthful mental states can do much to withstand occasional bouts of the blues, or worse. I know one man who overcame almost habitual sulkiness and self-pity by expressions of gratitude and appreciation for others. Another man overcame anxiety about the future and bad temper along with it, when he realized he had appropriate and satisfying choices before him.
For those others who are more challenged with serious mental health disorders, perhaps counseling, expert medical treatment, or persistent prayer is needed. One young mother suffering from bipolar disease chronicles her journey out of the terrible, out of control mood swings which no one seemed to understand. Danielle Reier tells of all the ways she was helped, including an especially caring physician who really listened to her. Significantly, Reier mentioned that having a faith was also important to her improvement. “I have to have faith,” she says.
What can we do to help loved ones who are tormented with mental disorders? First, tend to our own mental health so that we can be as patient, supportive and loving as possible. To be at peace, sage advice from many centuries ago comes to mind: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” St. Paul to the Philippians, Chapter 4: 8
Good mental health, like good physical health, should be a birthright for each of us. Praise be for those who are working toward this goal.