Understanding Everyday Stress and Mental Health

Today’s blog comes from, Gregory Jahn, President of St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center. St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center, a 124-bed behavioral health facility located on the campus of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix, with an outpatient center in the East Valley. St. Luke’s has been serving the mental health and substance abuse needs of the community with a full spectrum of inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for children, teens, adults and seniors. For more information, visit http://www.stlukesbehavioralhealth.org or call 1-800-821-4193. Once you’ve had a chance to read Mr. Jahn’s blog, please take a moment to let us know what you think. Driving conversations around the health issues facing the people of our state is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

Stress is a normal part of everyday life and can be a motivational driver to completing a task or reaching a goal. But when stressors become all consuming, they can lead to crippling anxiety, deep depression and event manifest themselves in physical symptoms, such as check pain and insomnia. When an individual finds themselves constantly trapped in a stressful situation – whether it’s the burden of responsibilities or the worry about job, money or relationships – without adjusting counter the effects, stress can seriously threaten an individual’s health and well-being.

Stress is on the rise

Mental illness comes in many shapes and levels of severity. This largely invisible condition that touches one in five people currently affects more than 40 million Americans. In Arizona, more than five million people battle severe mental illness every day.

A recent survey published by the American Psychological Association, “Stress in America: The State of Our Nation,” reports that chronic stress is increasingly affecting Americans’ overall well-being. Almost 40 percent of Americans are more anxious than they were at this time last year. These red flags should cause all healthcare professionals to take pause, especially when considering that despite these statistics, few respondents admitted to seeking mental health care, even though 86 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that mental health has an impact on physical health.

What these figures don’t share is the number of undiagnosed individuals struggling with mental wellness. Some may simply not know they are experiencing mental illness while others ignore seeking help specifically because of the level of stigma and negativity associated with conditions that include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, psychosis and bipolar disorder, among many others.

Helping Identify Warning Signs

The key is in helping individuals realize the amount of stress they are carrying and whether it is becoming debilitating or affecting overall mental wellness. Despite the negative stigma, mental illness – especially those conditions brought on by stress – remains one of the most highly treatable conditions, especially when the plan includes love, support and acceptance from the individual’s innermost social circle. A cornerstone of care in this approach includes preserving the integrity of both the patient and family while furnishing a safe, therapeutic environment.

Given that providers are not usually the first point of contact for individuals struggling with debilitating stress, it becomes vitally important to educate the public, who are the friends and family of those battling stress. Giving them the tools to identify warning signs, is a first step to guiding an individual to better mental health.

Some of the important warning signs include:

  • Marked personality changes;
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities;
  • Strange or grandiose ideas;
  • Prolonged depression and apathy;
  • Marked changes in eating or sleeping patterns;
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs;
  • Excessive anger, hostility, or violent behavior; and
  • Most importantly, a person who is thinking or talking about suicide or homicide should seek help immediately.

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