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  • Darlene Ifill-Taylor, MD FAPA

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Share the Care!

Mental Health Awareness has come a long way in the last few years. As a child and adult psychiatrist for over 25 years ow, I have to say, "better late than never."

Being unaware of the importance of good mental health in our family members, friends, and ourselves can take us off track in our relationships, education, and occupation. It can make us a bad friend, employee, spouse, or parent. Just as it is when we don't take care of our physical health, failure to nurture our mental health can undermine our ability to be our best selves. This, in turn, can result in a negative impact on our outlook, behavior, and relationships.

Of course, not taking care of our mental health negatively impacts our physical health as well. Insomnia, over or under-eating, unrelenting high cortisol, as is the case when we feel constantly stressed; being too depressed to exercise or follow-through on our self-care ... all of these can negatively affect your physical health.

The Physical and Emotional impact of the Covid 19 Pandemic cast a bright light on the importance of being aware of the social, emotional, educational, and occupational impact of such a traumatic event. In fact, one of the only positives that came out the pandemic is that mental health stigma decreased and mental health awareness increased. During the pandemic, families, friends, and even neighbors came together to check on each others' mental and emotional.

Because of this heightened awareness, those of us who need to, work with a therapist for a period of time, are assessed for depression, should consider that they may have an anxiety disorder, or have PTSD. Still, many do not seek treatment. Sometimes it's because of social stigma, or the feeling that their family won't understand. Sometimes it's because to not having time to miss work, or because insurance won't pay for mental health services. And sometimes it's just a lack of awareness, ignorance, or fear about mental health treatment.

So, we have an entire month dedicated to helping the community be more aware of the services available to them, which will hopefully decrease the barriers to mental health awareness and treatment. The fact that you are reading this blog means you're aware, and are open to learning about mental health treatments. For example, did you know that we have state-of-the-art treatments for depression that do not use antidepressants? Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has recently been approved to treat adolescent depression as a first-line treatment? Or that psychoactive treatments like Nasal Ketamine (Spravato) are readily available for drug-resistant depression?

Spread the word.

Mental Health is a huge part of our health. I can't stress this enough. Acknowledging that you or your loved-one needs mental health support is in no way a sign of weakness. With awareness and education comes and understanding. We're all getting better at answering these questions with the correct answers, and I, for one, am so pleased.

So be aware. Share the care!

Darlene Ifill-Taylor, MD


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