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May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

Jon Boschen, MSW, LCSW, LCADC - Director, Turning Point, Inc.

Although it is brought to the forefront once a year for a month, mental health awareness should be on our minds all year long because of the impact it has on our everyday lives. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 44.7 million people suffer from some form of mental health issues, which is roughly 1 out of every 6 Americans.

But what exactly does that mean?

NIMH identifies a broad spectrum of issues beyond the conventional perception of mental Illnesses, including adjustment disorders, various grades/degrees of anxiety or depression and addiction. In society, there seems to be the expectation that everyone must be happy, or that a person that cannot handle life’s stressors is considered weak. This unrealistic expectation often leads to stigmatization and a false thought process that adversely affects self-esteem, confidence, and worth.

Mental health and mental illness are often used interchangeably, but how they are received is quite different. For many, mental illness evokes stigma along with insensitive adjectives that can be cruel, such as “crazy”, “nut-job”, or “retarded.” As for mental health, it tends to be seen in a more positive light, and there always seems to be more of an emphasis on sleep health, time away from work, meditation, working out or spending time doing things of interest.

“Negative thoughts and words are like weapons that do not draw blood but do create deep wounds that are difficult to heal,” - Jon Boschen.

For us, it’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and not care for ourselves like we should; compromises are often made to push ourselves a little more at the expense of self-care and overall health. Unfortunately, for many, that push never really stops and becomes part of the status quo, from which it is difficult to turn back. In many cases, our mind is not allowed to rest, recharge and have time to unpack all the clutter from the day, resulting in situations where it gets bogged down over time.

When this happens, the first thing to suffer is sleep—whether it’s going to sleep later or waking up earlier than intended. As this behavior progresses, it may be very difficult on a person because the mind is still working overtime to clear up the clutter diverting the energy needed to replenish the naturally occurring chemicals in our brains that assist in rebalancing our mood. Unfortunately, the added stress on the mind becomes habit, and has the potential to progress to adjustment issues and even burnout that could lead to more serious clinical issues like anxiety, depression or addiction.

Talking to a professional is important: whether it’s a doctor, nurse or other healthcare expert. The CDC reports that on average, 21% of adults between the ages of 18-64 have a diagnosable anxiety disorder and roughly 6.7% of the total U.S. population experience a major depressive episode each year. In addition, 20% of American teenagers think about suicide each year; with 1 in 12 actually attempting it.

As a result, many people underreport symptoms or use maladaptive coping skills to manage the burden they are struggling with; possibly through self-harm, addiction or suicide. We have all seen the posters and bulletin boards from law enforcement telling us to say something when we see something. So, what will it take for us to translate this practice to care for our fellow people? The stigma that surrounds mental health dominates and creates barriers for those struggling to make the decision to seek help. Please know the signs and symptoms and reach out to a professional; recognition and communication are key. Help is available—don’t wait.

At Turning Point, our goal is to help our patients cope with drug and alcohol addictions through a variety of treatment programs, such as detoxification programs, family wellness programs, and transitional living. To take the next step towards overcoming your addition, you can review our admissions process, refer a loved one to our center, or request admission for yourself today.

Call 973.380.0905 or contact us online today.

About the Author: Jon Boschen has been working in the fields of mental health and substance abuse for almost a decade. He earned his master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Rutgers University and is dually licensed by the State of New Jersey as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and a Licensed Clinical Alcohol Drug Counselor (LCADC).

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