Back to Basics: Practical mental health information

This Letter to the Editor was published in The Gazette on May 15, 2022. Read it on The Gazette website here.

Since the start of the pandemic, more and more people are talking about mental health. An increasing number of us are starting to see it for what it is: one important component of your overall health and well-being, just like your physical health. But mental health conditions, resources, and conversations can still feel complicated and out of reach.

Having a widespread understanding of the topic can help you be more informed if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health condition or crisis. Around half of people in the U.S. will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life, so everyone should know what to look out for.

There’s often no one single cause for a mental health condition. Instead, there are many possible risk factors that can influence how likely a person is to experience a mental health condition or how serious the symptoms may be.

Some risk factors for mental health conditions include: trauma, which can be a one-time event or ongoing; your environment and how it impacts your health and quality of life; genetics; brain chemistry; and your habits and lifestyle such as a lack of sleep.

Of course, understanding the risk factors for a mental health condition can be more difficult when it’s your own mental health. Take time to ask yourself about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to see if this is part of a pattern that may be caused by a mental health condition. Have things that used to feel easy started feeling difficult? Does the idea of doing daily tasks like making your bed now feel really, really hard? Have you lost interest in activities and hobbies you used to enjoy?

If you are concerned about your mental health, there are several options available. You are not alone — help is out there, and recovery is possible. Connecting with Foundation 2 Crisis Services is a great place to start, and just one of the many supports in our community who want to help you thrive. Our crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 319-362-2174 to talk. All calls are free and confidential.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Mental Health America has a great resource titled “Back to Basics” with ideas and solutions to help you lead productive conversations about mental health. While you may not need this information today, knowing the basics about mental health will mean you’re prepared if you ever need it.

Emily Blomme is the CEO of Foundation 2 Crisis Services, a Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit that focuses on suicide prevention, crisis response, and mental health support. Foundation 2 serves all Iowans, and answers more than 5,000 contacts per month (phone, text, and chat). During May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we would like the opportunity to share about practical tips for assessing mental wellness and remind people that Foundation 2’s services are available and free to all.

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