May is Mental Health Month — take care of yourself

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2022

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Adapted from Mental Health America

By Andy Hagler

Since the start of the pandemic, more and more people are talking about mental health. An increasing number of folks are starting to see it for what it is: one important component of your overall health and well-being, just like your physical health. But mental health conditions, resources and conversations can still feel complicated and out of reach.

Are there common warning signs for mental health conditions or crises? Are there specific factors that can lead to mental health conditions or even crises? What resources are out there — and how do I know if they are right for me? Many people are learning about mental health and what it is for the first time. Understanding the facts about mental health and becoming more informed is a great first step.

Around half of people in the United States will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life. Everyone should have the support needed to thrive. Communities that have been historically and presently oppressed face a deeper mental health burden because of the added impact of trauma, oppression, stigma and harm.

There’s often no one single cause for a mental health condition. Instead, there are many possible risk factors that can influence how likely a person is to experience a mental health condition or how serious the symptoms may be.

Some risk factors for mental health conditions include: (a) trauma, which can be a one-time event or ongoing; (b) your environment and how it impacts your health and quality of life (also known as social determinants of health like financial stability and health care access); (c) genetics; (d) brain chemistry; and (e) your habits and lifestyle, such as a lack of sleep.

Understanding the risk factors for a mental health condition can be more difficult when it’s your own mental health. Take time to ask yourself about your thoughts, feelings and behaviors to see if this is part of a pattern that may be caused by a mental health condition, such as:

• Have things that used to feel easy started feeling difficult?
• Does the idea of doing daily tasks now feel really, really hard?
• Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy?
• Do you feel irritated to the point of lashing out at people?

Our society focuses much more on physical health than mental health, but both are equally important. If you are concerned about your mental health, there are several options available. You are not alone — help is out there, and recovery is possible. It may be hard to talk about your concerns, but simply acknowledging to yourself that you’re struggling is a big step.

Taking a mental health screening at can help you better understand what you are experiencing. After that, consider talking to someone you trust about your results, and seek out a professional to find the support you need. While you may not need this information today, knowing the basics about mental health will mean you’re prepared if you ever need it.

As the community connector, educator and resource navigator for mental health care in Forsyth and surrounding areas, the Mental Health Association in Forsyth County offers an array of programs and services such as support groups, short-term counseling, information and referrals/access to services and many other free services designed to help you or someone you love who may be struggling.

If you or someone you love have questions, need additional information, or need help in finding a mental health provider, call 336-768-3880 or go to

Andy Hagler is the executive director of the Mental Health Association of Forsyth County.