Ginnifer Hutcheson

Ginnifer Hutcheson, DNP, PMHNP-BC

Five reasons your mental health matters

(Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month across the country. This information is provided by Ginnifer Hutcheson, DNP, PMHNP-BC, a nurse practitioner at Right Track Medical Group, which has an office in Olive Branch.)

More than 46 million Americans experience mental illness in any given year. For many — one in 25 — their mental illness is serious enough that it substantially interferes with major life activities.

For many, the unprecedented crisis brought on by COVID-19 — including the loneliness of social distancing, financial struggles, disruptions to everyday life, and concerns for the physical health of themselves and their loved ones — is exacerbating symptoms of mental illness. According to a recent national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of all Americans report that stress related to COVID-19 has already negatively impacted their mental health.

As we support Mental Health Awareness Month this May, these statistics emphasize the ever-present need to raise awareness about mental illness as one of the most common health struggles people face today. Whether the world is battling a historic pandemic or not, mental health always matters. Here is a look at five reasons why:

1. Overall wellbeing: Your mental health is a state of wellbeing in which you realize your own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and can contribute to your community, according to Ginnifer Hutcheson, DNP, PMHNP-BC, a nurse practitioner at Right Track Medical Group. “When this mental state is interrupted with depression or anxiety, you begin to no longer feel or act like yourself,” she says.

2. Physical and mental health are linked together: Physical issues can affect your mental health, and visa-versa. For example, anxiety can lead to physical problems like acid reflux, obesity and irregular heart rate, says Hutcheson.

3. Sleep and relaxation: When you are battling mental health issues, it becomes difficult to slow down, relax or get the sleep you need, says Hutcheson. Individuals with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “chronic sleep problems affect 50 percent to 80 percent of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10 percent to 18 percent of adults in the general U.S. population. Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” This can lead to issues that start to affect your physical life negatively.

4. Energy levels: Your energy levels can plummet when your mental health is not taken care of, making it hard to find the energy to do your work or even participate in activities you once found joy in, says Hutcheson.

5. Community: When you begin feeling like your day-to-day life is negatively affected by your mental health, it can start to affect those around you, she said. This can lead to relationships that become strained and unhealthy.

Even though it is proven that mental health is essential for a happy and healthy life, at least 40 percent of those struggling don’t seek help, according to a report published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Part of the barrier for many is the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

This way of thinking must continue to change, especially as the importance of mental healthcare becomes more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Hutcheson, this means:

Educating yourself and your community about the importance of mental health.

Raising awareness of the symptoms of mental illness.

Emphasizing early intervention when you or a family member become aware of these symptoms.

Ginnifer Hutcheson, DNP, PMHNP-BC is a Nurse Practitioner at Right Track Medical Group.