Chronic illness

Mental health resources for chronic illness

We know recent events at Caring Voice Coalition are causing stress and worry about the immediate and long-term future. See more about that from President, CEO Greg Smiley here.

Additionally, with the approach of winter comes the approach of its potential blues. These are good reasons to take a moment to check in with your mental health.

Nearly five percent of Americans encounter a recurring type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the fall and winter months. The decreased exposure to sunlight brought by those shortened daytime hours can trigger the depression, but other dynamics, such as the holiday season, can magnify it.

Some may feel a sense of isolation, or grow anxious from holiday preparations and expectations, while others might feel pressure to spend money they don’t have. For many, the perceived obligation to be joyful around the holidays generates unbearable anxiety and disappointment that eventually leads to a full-blown depressive state.

If any depression, anxiety or stress you are feeling is too much for you to navigate alone, ask for help. A good place to start is your regular doctor.

You might also check out these resources, useful for anyone experiencing anxiety, stress, depression or otherwise wanting to be in tune with their mental health.

Close relatives

Chronic disease and mental illness are very close relatives. Just as with any chronic illness, you should never ignore your mental health symptoms or attempt to manage them without guidance from a medical professional.

Mental health is as important to overall wellness as physical health. And accordingly, Obamacare includes coverage of mental health in its 10 essential health benefits. The federal law requires individual and small group health plans to provide the same level of coverage for these 10 essential health benefit categories as they do for medical services.

The most common diagnoses are depression, which affects about 7 percent of the population, and anxiety, which impacts 18 percent each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Seeking help and stigma

Unfortunately, a lot can get in the way of seeking help for SAD, or any mental health concern. One big reason people don’t seek help is because of a longstanding and continued stigma surrounding mental health issues.

This painful stigma can be just as harmful as the conditions themselves if left untreated. Discrimination makes it difficult to open up about mental wellness, especially by disclosing a mental health issue. You might hesitate to share your experience for many reasons. You don’t want to burden others. Maybe you’ve tried before but the result left you discouraged. Perhaps you think you can handle it on your own or you fear being judged or exposed. But masking your feelings can push you into a downward spiral even more grueling to overcome.

Friends and family often fail to understand their loved ones’ mental state, and instead they avoid the melancholic elephant in the room, and this is a choice that can leave you or your loved one feeling misunderstood and abandoned. If you trust your family, give them a chance to help. If they are misinformed about mental health, point them toward more useful information.

Let’s continue to drive out old notions until the majority of us approach mental health concerns with the same empathy and understanding as we might the common cold. Until then, it’s important to seek help when you need it.

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