A restaurant, mall, playground, office, you name the location and you are sure to see multiple people checking their phones for calls, texts, emails, and social media updates. Could it be that they all suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), stress, anxiety, antisocial behavior or some other form of mental illness?

We all express our 'mental health' in different ways. In the past, someone who behaved 'differently' was labeled as mentally ill. They were considered crazy, possessed, or someone you needed to avoid. Over the years we've come to realize that many inventors, artists, scientists, musicians, athletes and actors suffer with mental illness. It's not something we need to be afraid of or demonize.

One in 4 adults have been diagnosed with a mental health issue. However, those numbers do not tell us the true story since they do not include people who have not thought treatment and were typically diagnosed.

We All Experience Mental Health Issues

If we include all of the diagnosed and undiagnosed cases, the numbers are even lower. Could it be 1 in 3, 1 in 2, or maybe all of us our dealing with mental health issues to some extent. We all deal with anger, anxiety, compulsions, cravings, denial, fatigue, fear, grief, impulsiveness, jealousy, mood swings, panic, self-esteem, stress, trauma at some time in our life.

We all react to situations and events on a sliding scale. Some people react with a minor, short-term response. They cry, yell, feel sad, crave some chocolate, or use another outlet to show their feelings. However, this group is able to move on with their day. Other people may have a long-term, chronic response. They may develop depression, anxiety, phobias, or eating, mood or sleep disorders. Other people may experience responses that are somewhere in between depending on the day or the event. For those who think that they do not react to stressful situations, even no response is an indication of your mental health.

Why Are People Afraid of Mental Health Issues?

Simply stated, mental health is how we think, feel and act. It's a reflection our mood, behavior, and thinking in response to stress and interactions with other people. Our mental health is part of us from the day we are born and can change over time. Many factors contribute to our mental health, including family history, trauma, and brain chemistry.

Mental health issues should not be treated as a deep, dark family secret that no one is supposed to talk about. You would not think any less of someone who developed cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. People dealing with mental illness should receive the same compassionate response. There is no shame in seeking help. Hopefully, as more and more people speak out about their own struggles, there will be less of a stigma associated with this illness.

Tips To Improving Your Mental Health

We all know that you can improve your physical health with exercise and good nutrition. What many people do not realize is there are also tools you can use to improve your mental health.

  • Get enough exercise.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar and processed foods you eat.
  • Eat quality whole grains, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and fruits.
  • Do not isolate yourself. Talk to friends, parents, teachers, counselors, clergy, or a therapist.
  • Maintain a positive attitude (use music, dance, friends, inspirational quotes).
  • Develop coping skills (problem solve in advance of a stressful situation).
  • Find something to laugh about everyday (jokes, videos, TV shows, movies, funny people).
  • Find a safe-way to de-stress (mediation, reading, music, friends, spiritual).
  • Find a good psychiatrist or physician to help you decide if medication is necessary to address symptoms and promote recovery.

You Are Not Alone – We All Deal With Some Level of Mental Illness

You do not need to be afraid of mental illness. Our behavior, thoughts, and reaction to life are things we all deal with on a daily basis. While many people develop personal coping techniques, others require more aggressive treatment. There is no shame in reaching out for help. The next time you think you are the only one dealing with mental health issues, look around you. How many people do you see compulsively checking their phones? Perhaps we could all benefit from a little more support and compassion.