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Guest Editorial: Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, and neither should you

Many people pay attention to their physical health, but total wellness involves eight basic dimensions: spiritual, financial, social, occupational, intellectual, emotional, physical and environmental.

This month, May, has been designated Mental Health Month in America – a time to heighten awareness of mental health issues and reduce stigma for those living with mental illness.

Many of us know someone with a mental health issue, whether we realize it or not. We count people with mental illness among our family members, community members, coworkers and friends.

Some well-known individuals with mental health issues include: John Nash, Patty Duke, Earnest Hemingway, Abraham Lincoln, Harrison Ford, James Taylor, Jim Carrey, Brooke Shields, Dick Clark, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Carrie Fisher.

Mental health issues do not discriminate by gender, age, religion, income or ethnicity. They are not a result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. They can range from short term to life-long, and anywhere in between.

Mental health issues can disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood and ability to relate to others and do daily functions. They can affect concentration, job performance and satisfaction, productivity, sleep and relationships. They can also affect other areas of health, and are sometimes linked to cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, chronic pain, strokes, heart disease and other ailments.

For those suffering from a mental health problem, there is help, and recovery is possible. Talk to your doctor, call a friend, or contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness, your pastor, crisis centers or a trusted counselor.

Help is available through the Lakeland Mental Health Center (call their 24-hour emergency crisis line at 1-800-223-4512), peer and community support groups, Employee Assistance Programs, and various other agencies. One only needs an active individual treatment or crisis plan, and to follow it.

For those in the community who would like to help, get to know the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Educate yourselves. There is a class called Mental Health First Aid, and others, offered by area agencies and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Be supportive, treat people with respect and compassion, challenge stereotypes, work together, and, if it’s necessary and you know how, intervene.

There are ways to promote wellness in everybody: Follow a healthy lifestyle, work with a primary care doctor, ask questions, practice proper nutrition, be active, take prescribed medications as directed, and be attentive to all eight dimensions of overall health and wellbeing.

Some mental health-related activities taking place around the Perham area this month include:

- A Mental Health Awareness Walk in Fergus Falls on Wednesday, May 7, starting at ShopKo at 11:30 a.m.

- A presentation on Building Resiliency in Children, on May 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Lakeland Mental Health Center in Fergus Falls.

- A workshop in Detroit Lakes, at MNState, on May 20.

- A noon lunch presentation on “Anxiety and Depression: What is Next?” at the Otter Tail Power Community Room in Fergus Falls.

-Books, brochures and other information on mental health will be available at the Perham and Fergus Falls public libraries.

- Wear lime green for Mental Health, something people will be doing all around the area, on May 21.

Renee Doll

Perham, MN