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The Campaign to Change Direction: Mental Health in America

Mental illness is startlingly common in our country, with nearly one in every five people having a diagnosable mental health condition. So why don’t we hear about it more often? We hear a lot about other diseases like heart disease and cancer. Mental illness is an affliction on the same level as any other disease. Why then is mental illness only widely talked about after tragedies occur?

Over 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness. After such tragic events as Robin Williams’ suicide this past August, there is always talk about mental illness. There is an outcry from the general public for change to the mental health system and better resources for those who are suffering from a mental disorder. However, after a few weeks or months, the talk fades away and nothing happens – until now.

Spearheaded by Give an Hour and co-sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The Campaign to Change Direction is designed to change the story of mental health across the nation by urging all Americans to learn the five signs that someone might be in distress. First Lady Michelle Obama has lent her voice to this movement, emphasizing that mental health is just as vital as physical health and we should treat it that way.

Life Essentials fully supports this movement and encourages every person to learn the five signs of distress:

Personality Change – You may notice sudden or gradual changes in someone’s typical behavior. He or she may behave in ways that don’t align with their personal values, or the person may just seem different.

Agitation – You may notice the person has problems controlling his or her temper and is easily irritated and unable to be calmed easily. People in more extreme situations of this may be unable to sleep or may explode in anger at small problems.

Withdrawal – You may notice someone who used to be socially engaged with friends and family begin to pull away and stop taking part in activities they used to enjoy. In more severe cases, the person may start being unable to make it to work or school. This sign is marked by a change in sociability, not to be confused with someone who is simply more introverted.

Poor Self-Care – You may notice a change in someone’s personal care level or a poor decision on his or her part. For instance, someone may let their personal hygiene habits fall, or he or she may begin to abuse alcohol, illicit substances or engage in other self-destructive behavior.

Hopelessness – You may notice someone that used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything to be hopeful or happy about. That person may be suffering from extreme feelings of grief, guilt or worthlessness. People showing this sign may talk about the world being better off without them, suggesting they could be having suicidal thoughts.

Learn more about The Campaign to Change Direction

Unsure of what to do next if you think a loved one is displaying any of these signs? Reach out and connect with them. Show compassion and be there for that person who is suffering. Encourage them to get help and connect them with resources in your area. Together we can change the story of mental health in America!

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