• Hawaiʻi State Senate

May is National Mental Health Month

We recognize that people affected by mental illness face additional challenges dealing with COVID-19. Now, more than ever, it’s important to remember that there is no health without mental health. During these difficult times, we encourage you to take care of yourselves and check in on loved ones. You are not alone, and we will get through this together.

—Daniel H. Gillison, Jr.

Find Your Local NAMI


O'ahu

phone:    (808) 591-1297

email:info@namihawaii.org

web site:www.namihawaii.org


Hawa'i Island

Contact: Ms. Carol Ann Denis

phone:    (808) 935-0615

email: kham337@gmail.com

web site:www.namihawaii.org


Maui

Contact:

Patty Frame, Board Member Ms. Sharon Edmunds, Education Program Administrator Candace Lasko, Education Program Administrator Patty Frame, Vice President

phone:    (808) 298-0025

email: info@namihawaii.org

web site:www.namihawaii.org


Kaua'i

Contact: Ms. Kathy Sheffield, 9 Executive Director

phone:    (808) 935-0615

email: kham337@gmail.com

web site:www.namihawaii.org



A mental illness is a condition that affects a person's thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. These conditions deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others. If you have — or think you might have — a mental illness, the first thing you must know is that you are not alone. Mental health conditions are far more common than you think, mainly because people don’t like to, or are scared to, talk about them. However:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year

  • 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year

  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year

  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24

A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple, linking causes. Genetics, environment and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events. Biochemical processes and circuits and basic brain structure may play a role, too.


None of this means that you’re broken or that you, or your family, did something “wrong.” Mental illness is no one’s fault. And for many people, recovery — including meaningful roles in social life, school and work — is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.


Millions of people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year. It’s important to measure how common mental illness is, so we can understand its physical, social and financial impact — and so we canshowthat no one is alone.


Trying to tell the difference between what expected behaviors are and what might be the signs of a mental illness isn't always easy. There's no easy test that can let someone know if there is mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors of a person or the result of a physical illness.


Receiving A Diagnosis

Knowing warning signs can help let you know if you need to speak to a professional. For many people, getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in a treatment plan.


Unlike diabetes or cancer, there is no medical test that can accurately diagnose mental illness. A mental health professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, to assess symptoms and make a diagnosis. The manual lists criteria including feelings and behaviors and time limits in order to be officially classified as a mental health condition.


After diagnosis, a health care provider can help develop a treatment plan that could include medication, therapy or other lifestyle changes.


Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:

  • Excessive worrying or fear

  • Feeling excessively sad or low

  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning

  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria

  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger

  • Avoiding friends and social activities

  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people

  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy

  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite

  • Changes in sex drive

  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don't exist in objective reality)

  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)

  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs

  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)

  • Thinking about suicide

  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress

  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance

Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include the following:

  • Changes in school performance

  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school

  • Hyperactive behavior

  • Frequent nightmares

  • Frequent disobedience or aggression

  • Frequent temper tantrums

Receiving A Diagnosis

Knowing warning signs can help let you know if you need to speak to a professional. For many people, getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in a treatment plan.


Unlike diabetes or cancer, there is no medical test that can accurately diagnose mental illness. A mental health professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, to assess symptoms and make a diagnosis. The manual lists criteria including feelings and behaviors and time limits in order to be officially classified as a mental health condition.


After diagnosis, a health care provider can help develop a treatment plan that could include medication, therapy or other lifestyle changes.

Finding Treatment

Getting a diagnosis is just the first step; knowing your own preferences and goals is also important. Treatments for mental illness vary by diagnosis and by person. There’s no “one size fits all” treatment. Treatment options can include medication, counseling (therapy), social support and education.

If you have a mental health condition, you're not alone. One in 5 American adults experiences some form of mental illness in any given year. And across the population, 1 in every 25 adults is living with a serious mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or long-term recurring major depression.


As with other serious illnesses, mental illness is not your fault or that of the people around you, but widespread misunderstandings about mental illness remain. Many people don't seek treatment or remain unaware that their symptoms could be connected to a mental health condition. People may expect a person with serious mental illness to look visibly different from others, and they may tell someone who doesn't "look ill" to "get over it" through willpower. These misperceptions add to the challenges of living with a mental health condition.


Every year people overcome the challenges of mental illness to do the things they enjoy. Through developing and following a treatment plan, you can dramatically reduce many of your symptoms. People with mental health conditions can and do pursue higher education, succeed in their careers, make friends and have relationships. Mental illness can slow us down, but we don't need to let it stop us.


NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. https://www.nami.org/home

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Copyright 2019 Hawai`i Senate Majority

Hawai`i State Capitol
415 South Beretania St.
Honolulu, HI 96813