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May is Mental Health Month! This national public awareness campaign is sponsored each year by Mental Health America, and organizations around the country join together to educate the public about mental health and mental illness. Knowledge reduces stigma and increases an individual’s likelihood of seeking treatment for him/herself or a loved one.

This year’s theme is: Addressing Mental Health Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4). When we think about other diseases such as cancer, they are “staged” according to the severity of the disease and the likely outcome. Stage 4 is the most severe stage – the point at which the disease is least treatable.

When the concept is applied to mental health, the message is clear: don’t wait to get treatment for a mental illness. At the first symptom of a mental disorder, we encourage people to seek a proper assessment and then any necessary medical or psychological assistance.

The ability to recognize a mental illness is helped by understanding risk factors and particular symptoms; e.g., insomnia, mood changes. During the month, we’ll provide information on these subjects. Starting today: to get a quick assessment of your mental health, go to Mental Health America’s online screening tool and take a free, private screening. It will recommend any next steps you should take, depending upon your particular assessment.

Why is it so important to understand signs and symptoms of mental illness? Experts estimate that as much as 84% of the time that elapses between the first actual signs of mental illness and the first treatment received is spent not recognizing the problem.

Mental illnesses are treatable, so the earlier an individual seeks help, the sooner recovery can begin.

Please join us this month in celebrating mental health and in being an informed friend, neighbor, and family member. The peace of mind of someone you care about it may depend on it!

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