Beyond the social stigma and the facades we all put up to protect ourselves, it’s time to talk about mental health and why it’s important.

It takes strength from all of us to get past those barriers, but it’s crucial. Up to one in five people in the U.S. are actively struggling with a mental health condition. That includes depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and a myriad of other conditions. An openness to talk about and discuss our own mental health challenges could save the life of someone else who is struggling. Here’s why.

1. Chronic health conditions and mental illness can be congruent

As we noted in our “10 Facts About Mental Health” post:

“Mental illness and chronic pain go hand-in-hand, with a statistically significant increase in the likelihood of developing one as a result of the other. Additionally, 23% of suicides tested positive for antidepressants, and nearly 21% tested positive for opiates, including prescription pain medications. As a result, people living with mental illness die an average of 25 years earlier than someone who is not faced with this condition.”

Those aforementioned stigmas against mental health treatment will deter up to 40% of people from getting help. With suicide causing more deaths in the U.S. than homicide, it’s critical that more people who need help get it.

2. Over 62% of fibromyalgia patients will experience depression, and 56% will experience anxiety

For people who already suffer from the effects of fibromyalgia, the increased risk for mental health issues creates new challenges for treatment. Consider that:

Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression make coping with the pain of fibromyalgia even more difficult. Both mental health conditions and fibromyalgia are ‘invisible’ illnesses that make dealing with the social stigma part of both a challenge. Add additional health issues to the long-term issues surrounding both mental health and fibromyalgia, and you have the potential for increasing severity of both.”

In our post on the subject, we recommended some lifestyle habits that can help manage symptoms as well as encouraging patients to talk to their doctor.

3. Depression can lead to chronic pain

Whether it’s due to pain treatment medications, lifestyle changes, post-traumatic stress disorder, or sleep issues, there is often an increase in depression among pain patients. Likewise, many of those same factors can increase the risk of chronic pain symptoms among depressed patients.

Healthcare professionals who miss the signs of related depression and chronic pain often treat only one factor in a patient’s condition. We noted that:

“The doctor treating the chronic pain may not be able to distinguish depression from chronic pain. Similarly, a therapist working with a depressed patient may assume that the chronic pain is a result of the aches of depression: tense muscles and slumped posture that can lead to pain. Many depressed patients complain of pain, but the therapist may assume it is episodic (new to the depression) and not chronic (lasting longer than three months). This missed diagnosis makes it very difficult to effectively treat either condition.”

As we discussed in our post, however, once health care professionals are watching for warning signs, treating both conditions becomes more achievable.

4. Simple life changes can improve your mental health

Just like our physical health, mental health requires diligent attention and care. There are some therapies that are easy to incorporate into your everyday life in order to prevent mental health conditions or manage any that you already have.

Techniques that can help you improve your mental health include:

  • Practicing good sleep hygiene each and every night (to reduce both mental health issues and pain!)
  • Getting back to nature to reduce stress and depression
  • Making easy swaps to make your comfort food favorites more healthy
  • Going for a walk or undertaking any form of exercise
  • Changing your diet
  • Meditating daily, or as often as you can
  • Taking your vitamins, and any supplements, as recommended by your doctor
  • Turning off your screen (yeah, this one!)
  • Visiting with friends on a more consistent basis
  • Talking to your doctor about medications that may be right for you

5. There are places to find help, for everyone

Counseling Awareness Month connects individuals with the mental health professionals who are most likely to help in their situation. From one-on-one to group therapy, from counselors to psychiatrists, there is a wealth of access to people who are trained and willing to help. As we noted:

“The benefits of counseling are immeasurable. Counseling can help improve the quality of your life and brighten your outlook, giving you tools to work through daily challenges.”

Initiatives on social media are also beginning to make mental health more transparent and approachable for everyone. The hashtag movement #IWillListen promises that people can find non-judgmental and compassionate people who are willing to listen and help, without the cost. Another recent movement, #chroniclife, helps social media members share their daily challenges while living with a chronic pain condition. As we wrote:

“Online social networks are easy to use and available wherever you can get an internet signal. Sometimes ‘talking’ to an impartial person who knows what you are dealing with can make it better, even moreso than talking to family and friends who may be exhausted and frustrated as well.”

We know that talking to someone with your same challenges is a crucial way of managing and improving mental health. Because of this, Pain Doctor’s own collection of chronic pain support and inspiration sites include:

Everybody has the right to expect and ask for appropriate resources to manage their own mental health. There is help. There is support out there. The more we talk about the mental health conditions that face all of us, the more likely that someone who needs help will find it. And that is why we must all talk openly about mental health.

What’s your story? How has mental health issues affected your life or the lives of other people in your family? 

Image by Gabriela Pinto via Flickr


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