Mental Health Month

Mental Health Month

Since 1949, Mental Health America has designated May as Mental Health Month, making this the 70th anniversary of this important celebration.  Mental Health is critical to one’s overall well-being, and mental illness is much more common than many realize.  In fact, mental health disorders are the most common diseases of children. A recent study in the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has found that half of American youth will have had a diagnosable mental illness at some point before they are eighteen.

Research shows that the three most common psychiatric disorders in children are:  anxiety disorders, ADHD and disruptive behavior, and depression and bipolar disorders.  While specific medication and therapies effectively treat these - and all psychiatric - disorders, a healthy lifestyle can help prevent the onset or worsening of these conditions.  Moreover, certain healthy steps can help individuals to recover from and eliminate symptoms of these disorders.

Below are some recommended steps for taking care of your body and your mind:

  • Diet and Nutrition.  Fill your diet with vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, nuts, whole grains, avocados, and olive oil.  Reserve sweets and salty foods for special occasions.

  • Exercise.  Research has shown that exercise is as beneficial as therapy and medication for reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Ten minutes of moderate to vigorous activity done 15 times a week is enough to have benefits.

  • The Gut-Brain Connection.  The gut is often called “the second brain” and is strongly connected to mental health.  Feed the good bacteria, viruses, and fungi in your gut with prebiotic foods high in fiber or by taking a probiotic supplement.

  • Sleep.  Adequate sleep is fundamental to mental health, and teens should be getting about 9 hours per night for optimal health.

  • Stress.  Stress is a normal part of life, but chronic stress can negatively impact both physical and mental health.  Finding healthy ways to manage stress - through meditation, visualization, hobbies, healthy mindset, etc. - can help greatly.

  • Animal Companionship.  Among other benefits, pet ownership reduces stress, improves cardiovascular health, and reduces loneliness.

  • Spirituality and Religion.  Having a sense of meaning, purpose, or connection to something larger than oneself is associated with positive mental health outcomes, and attending religious services has been shown to reduce risk of depression.

  • Humor.  When we laugh, levels of stress hormones decrease, and there is increased activity in the brain’s reward system.  This leads to improved mood and anxiety relief.

  • Social Connection and Recreation.  Being lonely can cause significant damage to one’s physical and mental health.  It is important to be involved with friends, in clubs, and on sports teams to protect from isolation and disconnection.

In addition to practicing these healthy prevention strategies, it is beneficial to have regular physical exams with your physician to screen for any mental health concerns.  If you are concerned that your child’s mental health may be declining, please feel free to contact your child’s School Counselor or School Social Worker. Have a wonderful summer, and stay tuned for next year’s monthly blogs!


Theresa Black, LISW-S

School Social Worker


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