Make Your Mental Health a Priority this Year

January: World Mental Wellness Awareness Month


By: Maria Alejandra Pulgar

Para leer en Español

January is World Mental Wellness Awareness Month, and there is no better moment than this time of the year to include in our resolutions devoting time to focus on taking care of our mental health and well-being, as well as taking steps to prevent, detect, and provide treatment for any family member that might need it.

Statistics are alarming. We are only mid-January and three school shootings have already happened in the US, leaving two people dead, ten injured, and hundreds mentally impacted by those events. Every year there are reports of shootings, accidents, injuries, or deaths where people suffering from mental illnesses, most of them untreated or misdiagnosed, are involved. It is a crisis that should be addressed.

According to a report of the World Health Organization (WHO) about 51.5 million adults experience a mental disorder or illness yearly, and one in five children have a diagnosed mental health disorder. For years talking about mental disorders was taboo in society. People afflicted were stigmatized and, in many cases, institutionalized or even killed. They disappeared from their families; those ignored, forgotten family members were left to die in asylums or other institutions, where they suffered not only from their disorders and illnesses but also from loneliness, and a myriad of physical and mental abuses.

Nowadays, it is not that more people suffer from mental disorders, but instead, people are diagnosed, the issue is discussed openly and actions are taken to generate awareness and find support. However, there is still work to do to improve this situation. Knowledge about this important issue can save many lives and positively impact society


Identifying mental disorders and possible treatments

Among the most common mental disorders are anxiety, depression, bipolarity, obsessive-compulsive (OCD), schizophrenia, Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders. All these conditions interfere with the ability of a person to function and be productive in their life. 

The consequences of leaving those people misdiagnosed, ignored or unattended have a tremendous impact on society. School and work productivity and the economy are affected by absenteeism caused by mental issues; and mass shootings, suicides, domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse, and many other social events generally have mental health disorders involved.

The National Alliance on Mental Illnesses (NAMI), an organization to educate, provide resources, and generate awareness about mental health, lists among the most common signs and symptoms of mental health issues in adults and teens the following: extreme mood changes; excessive fears or worries; delusions, paranoia, hallucinations; inability to cope with daily problems; significant fatigue and insomnia; withdrawal from friends or activities; changes in eating habits; alcohol or drug abuse; excessive anger or violence and suicidal thoughts.

Unfortunately, sometimes people notice those signs when it is too late. Causes of mental illnesses can be genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological, therefore in some cases, they can be spotted early in life. Parents, teachers, and caregivers need to be aware of children’s behaviors to address any mental health issue timely; the same applies to partners or family members when detecting any of the prior listed signs in their loved ones. Talking about mental and emotional issues should be normal during regular medical check-ups to address any particular situation before it escalates.

Nowadays, medical insurance plans include coverage because it is not a luxury to take care of mental health. Access to professional assistance for an accurate diagnosis and treatment can make an important difference for the person and society in general. Countless tragedies could have been avoided if a person with mental issues was diagnosed and assisted by their family and society. Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide and can be preventable. There are resources to help those who are struggling and their families.

Course of action depends on the diagnosis; among the most common treatments for mental issues are psychotherapy and medications; in more severe or acute cases that require intensive intervention, hospitalizations and other more invasive treatments might be required to stabilize the person and improve their outcome and quality of life.


Prioritize protecting your mental health

Mental health is fundamental for the overall well-being of a person. It is not a luxury or selfishness to prioritize self-care to protect mental health and improve the quality of life. The normal stress of regular life can be overwhelming for any person, moreover for a person with a mental disorder; with adequate treatment, they can develop their ability to cope and learn to manage extreme situations to continue being productive members of society.

Taking measures to preserve and improve mental health requires being aware and addressing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. The main way is to practice self-care; get involved in an exercise, set expectations and boundaries with others, find a spiritual practice, and incorporate daily life activities that increase feelings of accomplishment, gratitude, peace, and joy are measures scientifically proven to increase the mental health of individuals.

Controlling the occurrence and managing the reactions to stressful situations is important because long-lasting stress affects not only mental but also physical health. Seeking professional help and support for the person affected allows them to recover their mental health and general well-being.

If you or someone you love requires mental health support there are resources to help and a crisis hotline. You can find more information at



One thought on “Make Your Mental Health a Priority this Year

  • It’s is extremely important to address these issues. Thank you for the article. I wish there would be more articles like this emphasizing other steps to help people like meditation, social networks, relaxation, connection with nature, exercising, yoga, spiritual connections

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