Mental Health

by K. Elser

Mental health is the emotional, psychological, and well-being of a human. Mental health – also called mental illnesses or mental health disorders – can include a wide variety of mental health conditions. It can affect a person’s mood, his or her choices, actions, how they handle stress and pressure, and overall behavior. Examples include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. 

Over the years, mental health issues in Iowa have slightly decreased, but it still remains an issue. According to the Iowa Department of Education, 1 in every 5 children, ages 13-18, have or will have a mental illness, 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24, and 50% of students age 14 and older with a mental illness will drop out of high school. In addition, in 2011, suicide became the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24 in the U.S. In 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-14 in the U.S., though it dropped to the third leading cause in 2015.

There are certain signs and symptoms of a mental illness or disorder to look for. These signs and symptoms can vary depending on the person’s disorders and circumstances. Examples of the signs and symptoms include: feeling sad or down, confusion, excessive fears and worries, mood changes, withdrawals, tiredness, problems with alcohol and drugs, and suicidal thinking. 

If you notice any mental illness symptoms, never hesitate to call a professional. Most mental illnesses will not improve on their own, and if they remain untreated, they may get worse. If you or someone you know ever have suicidal thoughts, get help right away. There are different ways to get help, including: call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately; call a suicide hotline number (1-800-273-8255), seek help from your primary care provider, reach out to a close friend or loved one, contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.