Advice: Mental illness affects millions

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it is important that as a community we take the issues seriously.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one in five American adults experience some type of mental illness. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the global burden of disease.

Furthermore, 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI. An American Foundation for Suicide Prevention report in 2016 pointed out that someone taking their own life is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

One in five children — ages 13 to 18 — have or will have a serious mental illness. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 24.

It can be difficult to understand what a person with a mental illness is experiencing if you have never been around someone struggling with it or have not struggled with it yourself.

You don’t choose to have a mental illness or to be depressed. Genes are often the culprit or, in some circumstances, experiencing high levels of stress after a major life-changing experience.

Accepting and acknowledging that you or a loved one has a mental illness is the first step to recovery.

Therapy, medication, eating healthy, taking supplements, using aromatherapy, exercising, and finding a hobby that relaxes you are some of the things that can help you.

Learning to understand what you are feeling and that you need to take care of yourself is not always easy, especially if you are very young or someone who has always been in control of their life.

Improving your mental health should not be rushed; it is a process. Everyone is different and has to find what works best for them.

Having family and friends who support you is important and an essential part of getting better.

The most difficult thing about mental illness is recognizing the symptoms. NAMI statistics show that the average delay between onset of symptoms and intervention in children and teens is eight to 10 years.

The following are some behavior changes that may indicate that a person needs help:

>> Prolonged feelings of sadness and loneliness and lack of interests in things they like to do;

>> Has trouble sleeping, or has anger and is hostile toward people and

>> Has excessive weight loss or weight gain, or the individual tries to harm themselves;

>> The person has overwhelming fear for no reason, complains often of headaches, stomachaches and other sicknesses. They can be moody and has big changes in personality;

>> Someone may start smoking or drinking excessively.

If you think you or a loved one is struggling with a mental illness, don’t be ashamed to speak up and ask for help.

The following are some of the resources available in the Rio Grande Valley:

>> NAMI Rio Grande Valley (956) 624-4960;

>> South Texas Counseling Agency (956) 843-0272;

>> South Texas Health System Clinics (956) 3833281

>> UTRGV Counseling CAP Center Edinburg (956) 665-2574;

>> DHR Health Behavioral Hospital (956) 362-4357.

Maria Luisa Salcines is a freelance writer, and certified parent coach with The International Network for Children and Families in Redirecting Children’s Behavior and Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom. Follow her on Twitter @PowerOfFamily, Instagram mlsalcinespoweroffamily or contact her on her blog