How to Be Mentally Well to Prevent Mental Illness
As the summer months come to an end and the smell of pumpkin and spice begin to arise in the atmosphere, we know that fall is near. The harsh realization of mid-terms and deadlines linger in the minds of many students. Parents fight through stacks of files attempting to avoid coffee spills. This is a time when athletes are approaching their mid fall seasons and must stay focused to remain on top or make their rise to the top. Professionals may be worried about meeting quota’s, or meeting project deadlines. During this time, we may lose sight of what is most important for entering this fall season, maintaining our mental health.
October is a month that has been dedicated to bringing awareness to mental illnesses across America and around the world. This helps to bring special attention to the individuals who may be overlooked because their illness is not physical and sometimes more difficult to spot. A mental illness refers to conditions that affect cognition, emotion, and behavior (e.g., schizophrenia, depression, autism), a term which has continuously evolved over the last half-century (Manderscheid, et al., 2010). Depression is one of the most important mental illnesses because of its frequent co-occurrence with other illnesses and physical disorders (Manderscheid et al., 2010). For athletes, and professionals alike, depression can interfere with performance and negatively impact one’s physical and mental well-being. Did you know that over 6% of the U.S. population aged 18 and up experienced a major depressive episode within the last year? Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression and young adults aged 18-25 are also more at risk (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2016).
One of the goals of TOPPS is to promote mental wellness in our community to reduce the occurrence of mental illness. Educating ourselves about mental illness is an important way to decrease stigma and to help our loved ones get the care and support they need to live more healthy and happy lives. Awareness also provides education and resources to assist in improving our own mental wellness. As a result, we’re better able to cope with day-to-day stressors and keep mental illness at bay.
TOPPS has created a list of the 3 main areas that effect one’s mental wellness:
Diet: There are many ways that proper nutrition can effect one’s mindset and mental state. Particularly when an individual suffers from depression or increased stress, unhealthy eating habits can occur. Research from adult populations have shown that a better-quality diet is associated with better mental health outcomes (O’Neil, et al., 2014). In children and adolescents, a poor quality diet that is lacking nutrient-dense foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies that have been associated with mental health issues and dietary intake can also have a direct impact on various biological systems and mechanisms that underpin depression (O’Neil, et al., 2014). Therefore, having a nutritious diet promotes a better mental well-being for all ages.
Exercise: Yes, exercise is used to manage weight or provide physical health benefits, but the mental health benefits that exercise promotes are sometimes forgotten. Exercise is a mood enhancer, helping to alleviate depression in the long-term (Weir, 2011). Exercise helps our brain to release the neurotransmitter serotonin, the same neurotransmitter that antidepressants like Zoloft and Prozac target. This important neurotransmitter helps regulate our mood, appetite, digestion, memory, and sleep. Regular workouts have also been shown to help people with anxiety become less likely to panic when experiencing fight-or-flight sensations that arise from fear, threats, or being startled (Weir, 2011). Through physical activity and exercise, individuals can stimulate positive brain receptors in order to steer away from mental negativity.
Sleep: The one thing we can all say we wish we had more of on a daily basis is most likely sleep. Whether young or old, sleep deprivation can cause negative attitudes, poor brain functioning, memory difficulties, and even delusions. Sleep and sleep disorders can influence the onset of mental illnesses or mental disorders (Krystal, 2012). For many individuals, treating sleep difficulties that may already be present can help to prevent or even improve mental illnesses. For those who struggle with psychiatric disorders, sleep deprivation ultimately contributes to the illness and can oftentimes be a tipping point for hospitalization (Krystal, 2012). Getting the proper amount of sleep at night can decrease the chances of becoming mentally imbalanced.
Using the TOPPSTips listed above will help promote balanced mind and balanced body through the promotion of healthy living and mental wellness. TOPPS not only provides clinical and sport psychology services to individuals, groups, and organization, but also believes in the importance of educating and increasing awareness about mental illness.
We need your assistance to spread the awareness of mental illness. Through your support and supportive organizations, we can learn to be mentally well to prevent mental illness. The first week of October was named Mental Illness Awareness week by Congress in 1990 (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2017). TOPPS will be continuing to educate on mental illness and we hope you will do the same. The National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI strives to bring attention to the many people affected by mental illnesses in the U.S. NAMI not only brings awareness into the topic, but also provides supportive resources. Did you know you can get a free mental health screening online at www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org for National Depression Screening Day on the fifth of October?
TOPPS plans to focus on giving #TOPPSTips and guides for staying mentally well during the month of October to show our support for the millions of Americans and millions of people around our world who struggle with mental illness. If you or a loved one seem to have signs of a mental illness there are many ways to gain further knowledge about coping skills and ways to seek help. To start, we suggest you visit the NAMI website to learn more. You can also check out some of our recent blogs which highlight tips for managing stress and mental illness.
Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of the effects of the 2015 NSDUH questionnaire redesign: Implications for data users. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/
Krystal, A. D. (2012). Psychiatric Disorders and Sleep. Neurologic Clinics, 30(4), 1389–1413.
Manderscheid, R. W., Ryff, C. D., Freeman, E. J., McKnight-Eily, L. R., Dhingra, S., & Strine, T. W. (2010). Evolving Definitions of Mental Illness and Wellness. Preventing Chronic Disease, 7(1), A19.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Mental Illness Awareness Week. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Raise-Awareness/Awareness-Events/Mental-Illness- Awareness-Week
O’Neil, A., Quirk, S. E., Housden, S., Brennan, S. L., Williams, L. J., Pasco, J. A., … Jacka, F. N. (2014). Relationship Between Diet and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Public Health, 104(10), e31–e42.
Weir, K. (2011). The Exercise Effect. American Psychological Association, 42(11), 48. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx