Millions of Americans are living with a mental illness. During the month of May, leading mental health organizations come together to raise awareness about mental illness, provide support and education to the public, and ultimately fight stigma. At AirDoctor, wellness is at the forefront of what we do, which is why we’d like to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month and share some ways we can come together to support mental health and wellbeing.
Together for Mental Health
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is one of the key organizations spreading the word about Mental Health Awareness Month. Their 2022 theme is “Together for Mental Health.” With a growing number of Americans experiencing symptoms of mental illness, it’s time that we join forces to advocate for people and programs that improve America’s mental health care system.
Between sharing stories and taking community action, all of us can come together so that people affected by mental illness have access to appropriate support. And there’s never been a more urgent time to do so. Following the stressors of the pandemic, there’s been a surge in mental health challenges.
In fact, 20% of Americans reported that the pandemic took a toll on their mental health, with 45% of those with mental illness experiencing worsening mental health symptoms.This is on top of the fact that mental illness is common in the United States. As of 2020, more than 52.9 million people live with mental illness—nearly one in five adults.
These numbers are related to one of the first messages to those affected by mental illness: you are not alone. It’s okay to not be okay, and all of us should remember to reach out and connect with friends and family who might be impacted by mental illness.
May also serves as a good reminder for everyone to take steps towards becoming more okay, to supporting our mental health. With this in mind, we’ve come up with 6 ways to support mental wellbeing.
6 Ways to Support Mental Wellbeing
Mental health has been linked to a range of factors. These include genetics, brain chemistry, trauma, drug abuse, stress, unhealthy habits, and environmental factors. While some of these are out of our control, others can be optimized to support mental wellbeing.
1. Stay active
Being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Regular exercise can help you concentrate, ensure better quality sleep, and boost your self-esteem. Exercise also releases endorphins—chemicals known to make you feel good. It’s recommended to do 30 minutes of (cumulative) exercise three days a week for these health benefits.
2. Eat well
Food can also be an important mental health tool—especially for depression and anxiety. Reducing intake of caffeine, sugar, and grains and boosting consumption of fruits and vegetables may improve mental health symptoms. These include eating foods high in omega-3s, like salmon, flax seeds, and chia seeds as well as foods high in vitamin B12, like dairy products, eggs, some seafood, clams, and fortified cereals.
3. Make your indoor air cleaner
About 40% of US residents live in counties with levels of air pollution that are deemed unhealthy. It’s also been found that people who are exposed to high levels of air pollution are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses. One of the most problematic types of pollution is nitrogen dioxide, which is released by cars via smog, as well as by gas stoves while cooking. Using ventilation over gas stoves has been shown to help, as does using air purifiers with HEPA and carbon filters.
An AirDoctor is exactly that. It’s equipped with an UltraHEPA and carbon filters to tackle common air pollutants like dust, smoke, pollen, and mold spores (which have also been linked to psychiatric symptoms). As such, air purifiers can reduce stress and improve sleep, therefore supporting better mental wellbeing.
4.Take a break
We don’t need to tell you how wonderful it is to go on vacation or take time off work. But we can tell you that it’s known to support your mental health. It’s been found that just having something to look forward to—like a vacation or camping trip—can boost your overall happiness for up to eight weeks!
5. Spend more time in nature
Nature is so rewarding for mental and physical health that doctors are starting to prescribe it! So, go for a hike, take up gardening, or even just sit in your backyard for a few minutes every morning.
6. Consider seeking help
Don’t be hesitant to talk to someone about your mental health or seek the support of a professional if necessary. If you notice persistent symptoms or that your mental health is starting to impact your daily life in a negative way, take a mental health test to determine if you are in fact experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.
For treatment options, SAMHSA has a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. For crisis support, text “HELLO” to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. For current and former veterans, you can call 1-800-273-8255 during a crisis.
We’re All in This Together
It’s part of our mission at AirDoctor to provide healthy living solutions to everyone, so we hope this article sheds light on Mental Health Awareness Month and some of the practices that can support mental wellbeing. We’d encourage everyone to use the month of May to extend more care and compassion to one another. Someone may be struggling with a mental health illness and a simple “hello” or “you look nice today” can go a long way.