Can Mental Health Issues Be Prevented?

Mental health disorders or mental illnesses cover an extensive range of mental health conditions such as those affecting your mood, behavior, and way of thinking. Examples of common mental health conditions are depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, addiction disorders, and eating disorders.

It’s possible for you to deal with mental health concerns at any point in your life. However, a mental health concern only becomes an illness if the symptoms that frequently cause you stress start affecting your daily function and relationships.

What Is the State of Mental Health Disorders in America?

Mental illness is common in America and can affect one in five adults. Meanwhile, 1 in 20 individuals end up with serious mental health issues. Mental disorders can develop either in childhood or early adulthood. You may also develop one or more of them simultaneously.

Mental illnesses come in different forms. Some are mild, while others can be severe. Mild ones such as phobias can affect your daily activities but in limited ways. However, severe mental health conditions often require hospital care. The good news is that many mental health issues can be prevented, and treatments for them are now widely available.

Symptoms of Mental Illness

Symptoms vary according to the type of disorder and the person’s circumstances. They can affect your emotions, behavior, and thoughts.

  • Persistent sadness
  • Confused thinking and difficulty in concentrating
  • Extreme worry and fear as well as excessive guilt
  • Intense and unpredictable mood swings
  • Low energy, constant tiredness, and sleeping problems
  • Having delusions, hallucinations, or paranoia
  • Difficulty in coping with everyday stress
  • Difficulty in relating to people and situations
  • Alcohol use and drug use
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Too much anger, violence, and hostility
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Physical symptoms such as unexplained body pains and headaches

Causes of Mental Illness

It’s important to be aware of the influences of genetics, brain development alongside life experiences, and prenatal health in determining your risk for developing mental disorders.

Inherited Traits

You could develop a mental illness if you have family members who’ve been diagnosed with one before. Of course, this isn’t to say that you’ll definitely have a mental illness because of genetics. It only implies that your genes can increase the chances of that happening and that disorders can be triggered by life situations as well.

Pre-Birth Environmental Exposure

If while carrying you in her womb your mother was exposed to environmental factors such as stress, toxins, alcohol, drugs, you can be more prone to developing a mental illness later in life.

Brain Development

Like most physical health problems, mutations in brain development can cause a person to develop a mental illness despite being conceived and born in a safe, healthy, and supportive environment. When neural networks in your brain are damaged, the function of your nervous system changes, which can eventually lead to depression and other emotional disorders.

Risk Factors of Mental Illnesses

Aside from the three possible causes of mental illness, there are risk factors that can increase your chances of acquiring mental health problems:

  • Stressful life situations such as financial problems, divorce, or the death of a loved one
  • Having a chronic medical disease such as diabetes or cancer
  • Brain damage due to traumatic brain injury
  • Traumatic experiences such as military combat
  • Using drugs and drinking too much alcohol
  • Childhood abuse and neglect
  • Previous mental illness
  • Having only a few healthy relationships

Complications of Mental Illness

If mental illness is left untreated, it can give rise to severe health issues and complications in other aspects of life such as:

  • Unhappiness in life
  • Family conflicts
  • Social isolation
  • Difficulties in relationships
  • Cigarette, alcohol, and drug overuse
  • Problems at work or in school
  • Financial and legal troubles
  • Committing suicide or homicide
  • Weak immune system
  • Heart disease and similar medical problems

Prevention of Mental Illness

Prevention in mental health is the reduction of occurrence, prevalence, and recurrence of mental illnesses and their linked disabilities. To prevent a mental health issue, intervention is needed. It’s important to strengthen your coping skills and adjust your contact with possible risk factors.

There’s no established set of steps on preventing mental health disorders. The most you can do is to manage your symptoms by keeping daily stress under control, increasing self-resilience, and boosting your self-esteem. You can minimize your chances of developing a mental illness by doing the following:

Focus on Warning Signs

Together with your doctor or therapist, you should find out what triggers your symptoms. Make sure that you and your health care provider have developed a treatment plan for you to follow should your symptoms start appearing. If you see changes in them, contact your doctor right away.

Undergo Routine Medical Checkups

Whether you feel fine or not, you should never miss your medical checkups. Visit your doctor on a regular basis to make sure you’re not experiencing any serious side effects due to your medication or treatment.

Get Help When Needed

You shouldn’t wait for symptoms to get worse. Seek help as soon as possible so that your condition can be treated.

Practice Self-Care

Make sure to get enough sleep and take adequate breaks. Follow a healthy, balanced diet, and integrate more movement into your lifestyle.

Programs for Mental Health Prevention

There are many programs and methodologies for promoting mental health that are developed by researchers and medical and mental health professionals. Therapy is one of those programs designed to treat anxiety disorders in children and adults alike. Therapy for pregnant women is also available to prevent the risk of the unborn child developing mental disorders.

At present, more and better offerings and insights are developed by mental health experts. They see to it that the solutions they come up with are effective when implemented in a larger population. They take risk factors and protective factors into consideration when designing a framework for addressing concerns regarding the prevention of mental illness.

Prevention of Substance Use Disorder

Genetic predisposition, poor self-confidence, and negative peer influences are factors that contribute to your risk of developing a substance use disorder. You can prevent the condition by having an emotionally supportive family, a strong religious background, and active involvement in school or work activities.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide is considered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a serious public health problem. In response to that, suicide prevention seeks to decrease factors that increase the threat of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In addition, it’s meant to help strengthen, sustain, and guard individuals against committing suicide.

The cause of suicide is a combination of factors like mental illness, substance abuse, painful losses, exposure to hostility, and social separation. That’s why it’s a must to keep an eye on individuals who often bring up the topic of death or display other warning signs such as feeling hopeless and avoiding loved ones.

Image from Flickr by NIH Image Gallery

Why Is Mental Health Prevention Important?

For mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or autism, there’s still no known way for them to be prevented. However, if done early, prevention is possible in the management of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder. 

Prevention is best done when a person is still young. Studies have shown that nearly 75% of mental health disorders can develop when a person is in their 20s. When a mental health condition burdens young people, it hampers their development. They’ll struggle to have a healthy and productive adulthood.

Young children with mental disorders are the highest contributors to disability rates in the U.S. This results in more school dropouts, imprisonment, and homelessness. They could also be deemed a burden to the state due to their need for medication, checkups, and hospitalization. What’s more, they’re said to negatively impact the country’s economic status since they may struggle to find employment, leading to a loss in earnings and reduced productivity.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

A mental illness is something you should never be ashamed of because like a physical health issue, it’s simply a biological phenomenon that requires treatment. It can affect anyone regardless of race, age, gender, social status, religious upbringing, and cultural identity.

You may know someone who’s hesitant to have their mental illness treated. It might be hard to convince or even force the person to see a professional regarding their symptoms. However, you can still give them encouragement and support by recommending a reliable mental health professional to check on their condition.

The therapists at Counseling Now know how important their role is in the early detection of potential risk factors, proper intervention, and prevention awareness. We’re here to help you safeguard your mental health, which is one of the keys to living a fruitful life. Book an appointment with Counseling Now to check if you have symptoms of mental health problems or find out how to prevent such issues in the first place.

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