Mental Health

Importance of Mental Health

Our mental health is an important aspect of our well-being that includes our emotions, thoughts, and relationships with others. This aspect of our health can be influenced by our genetics, physiology, family experiences, and larger life experiences over time. Depending on the situation, we might feel that our mental health has been slightly affected by something or has been seriously disrupted. Once affected, mental health can continue to impact how we interact with others, how we deal with stress, and our decision-making.

Children, adolescents, and adults can experience concerns with their mental health. Mental health issues are common. In 2018, West Virginia was ranked 42nd for adults and 34th for youth in the country for mental health and access to care (SAMHSA, 2019). Out of West Virginia’s 1.8 million people, 20.9% of adults and 13.3% of youth live with a mental health condition; 53.1% receive no mental health treatment (SAMHSA, 2019). Individuals may experience early warning signs that their mental health is being affected in some way. These may include:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little,
  • Not socializing with others the way one usually does,
  • Having low or no energy,
  • Becoming argumentative, or
  • Experiencing severe mood swings.

Once identified and, with appropriate supports and services, individuals are able to reach their full potential, cope with stresses, and meet their goals (https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health).

Mental Health and Individuals with Disabilities

Previous research has demonstrated that individuals with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost five times as often as individuals without disabilities (Cree RA, Okoro CA, Zack MM, Carbone E (2020). Frequent Mental Distress Among Adults by Disability Status, Disability Type, and Selected Characteristics – United States 2018. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). This work also noted that individuals who reported more than 14 mentally unhealthy days in the past 30 days were also more likely to report poor health behaviors, chronic disease, and limitations in daily life. Additional work has estimated that individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) experience mental health conditions 2-3 times higher than the general population. However, this range has varied greatly over studies largely addressed as being due to assessment issues.

Assessing the needs of West Virginians Infograph (PDF)

Assessing the needs of West Virginians Infograph Text Only (DOC)

Family, Friend and Provider Mental Health

a photograph with a cup of tea and post its that read Eat Healthy, Exercise, Sleep Well, Keep Things Simple, Think Positively

Anyone can experience mental health issues including family, friends and health service providers who provide care to others. Providing services can be rewarding but can become slow and steady stressors to one’s mental health without respite and mental health care. Like other stressors, caregiving can begin to affect one’s wellness, view of the world, and quality of life if not identified and treated effectively. Caregivers and health providers can begin to experience burnout (emotional, mental, and/or physical exhaustion) in some instances. Signs and symptoms of burnout are similar to those mentioned earlier including: feelings of anxiety, depression, irritability; feeling tired; having issues sleeping; or overreacting to minor nuisances; new or worsening health issues (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiver-stress-and-burnout.htm).

The section below provides some helpful tools, additional information and resources one could use to identify a mental health issue or seek assistance for mental health concerns. These resources are evidence-based with proven effectiveness. In some instances, these resources also incorporate additional issues (e.g., COVID-19) that contribute to stress and our mental health issues. Those specific tools provide additional guidance and resources that are helpful in certain situations.

Student Mental Health

An individual’s mental health and overall well-being is important, particularly during times of change and development. Students are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues as they experience a significant transition through college and additional training after high school. In many instances, the individual’s support system has changed or is now more distant than before.

Tools and Assistance

Mindfulness Minutes