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Understanding mental health

by Naomi Santana

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), there are millions of people affected by mental illness in the United States every year. One in five adults experienced an episode related to mental illness in the U.S. in 2018, which equates to about 47 million people. Whether you or someone you know is affected by mental health illness, mental health is an important issue and there are many things you can do to help.

“It makes sense for individuals to seek assistance as soon as they begin to see themselves struggling with their day-to-day functioning,” said Stacy Udolph, Clinician and Outreach Coordinator for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) here at CI.

There are many symptoms to look out for to determine whether you are experiencing mental health issues. According to Mental Health America, it is important to be attentive about sudden changes in behavior and thoughts. Some symptoms to look out for include excessive fears and anxiety, dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits, confused thinking, prolonged depression and suicidal thoughts. 

Udolph said that some other common signs to watch for are an increase in irritability or arguing with people, an increase in isolation, panic attacks and an increased heart rate. “If any of these symptoms surface please seek help as soon as possible,” said Udolph. 

There are also treatments and resources available to you. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, some of these resources include group or individual therapy, practicing self-care and reaching out to friends and family.

“Students should consider seeking counseling as a sign of strength knowing that some concerns are bigger than we can handle on our own sometimes. There are multiple ways of obtaining mental health services. Talking about one’s concerns is the first step to getting help,” said Udolph. 

It is important to be able to talk to someone you trust to help you find resources that can aid you with mental health. CAPS on campus is a good resource to start with. “If a student is struggling with their mental health, we recommend they contact CAPS at 805-437-2088 for an appointment. We offer same-day appointments for students in crisis. If a student calls after hours, they can push the number 2 and will be redirected to our 24/7 phone counseling service,” said Udolph. There are also many outside resources that can be helpful for anyone struggling with mental health. 

“There are often good support groups in the community on various topics. Self-help books, TED Talks and videos are sometimes a great way to learn more about ourselves,” said Udolph. According to Udolph, there are also individuals who seek support through spiritual counseling. Udolph mentioned that there are also great resources available through NAMI, samhsa.gov and psychologytoday.com. 

Some of the self-help books that Udolph recommends reading include: “Mindfulness for Beginners” by John Kabat-Zinn, “The Anxiety and Depression Workbook” by Jennifer L. Abel and “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund J. Bourne. Reading self-help books can be good for someone without a severe mental health issue; “…but if someone needs more support, counseling along with self-help books are a great combination,” said Udolph. These books can be found at the local library, Amazon or Barnes & Noble. 

According to psychcentral.com, other helpful books to read on mental health include “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck, “Driven to Distraction” by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.   

While there are many more resources and books available to help individuals with mental health illnesses, these are some ideas to give you a start.

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