Understanding the realities of mental health challenges

“I just haven’t felt like myself lately.”

We all hear this phrase – or something similar – now and then.

Such candid sharing means that the person trusts you and feels comfortable telling you how they feel rather than bottling it up. Intimate sharing like this illustrates healthful, supportive relationships that are enriched by compassionate listening. Are you one of those compassionate listeners?  Imagine how much more helpful you could be if you knew more about mental health challenges, treatment options and resources available right in your community.  

The face of mental illness

Everyone has a bad day now and then.  When symptoms are intense and present for longer than two weeks, a string of bad days may actually be an emerging mental health concern.

Here is what to watch for:

  • Is the person’s symptoms disrupting their work, ability to carry out daily activities or engage in satisfying relationships?
  • Is it affecting their thinking, emotional state or behavior?

When symptoms are causing a persistent disruption in someone’s life for two weeks or longer, it may be time to extend your compassionate support and help connect the person with professional help. Keep in mind that a mental disorder or mental illness is a diagnosable illness sometimes caused by trauma, chemical imbalances in the brain and other biological and environmental factors. A little professional help can go a long way.

The landscape of mental health

While Colorado is a phenomenal destination state that offers ample winter sporting venues and endless options for entertainment and social engagements, the state has its mental health pitfalls.

Consider that:

  • Colorado ranks 16th in the incidence of mental illness. A total of 20.6 percent of Coloradans experienced some form of mental illness last year (approximately 750,000 Colorado adults).
  • Colorado currently has the 10th highest suicide rate in the nation. About 13 people of every 100,000 in the United States died due to suicide in 2016. That same year, Colorado lost more than 20 people per 100,000 residents.
  • Suicide is leading cause of death among young Coloradans age 10 to 24.
  • Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.
  • About 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 young people experience a mental disorder each year; less than 50 percent receive treatment.

Learn the basics

Equipped with the right information, it’s easier to help others or yourself.  For example, did you know that anxiety disorder is the most commonly diagnosed mental health challenge in the U.S.?  Symptoms associated with anxiety disorder are broader than just feeling “on edge,” and can include headaches, muscle aches, chest pain and a huge variety of other physical ailments. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a specific form of anxiety, hallmarked by nightmares, emotional flatness, depression, anger, irritability or a tendency to be easily startled.

Be in the know

A free presentation titled “Understanding the Realities of Mental Illness,” will be offered 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at Community Reach Center, 11285 Highline Drive in Northglenn. The presentation will cover signs and symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses, treatment options and helpful local resources. Ample time will be provided for questions as well. Please visit www.communityreachcenter.org to register.

It is vitally important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know mental illness is treatable. Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please call the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

Encouraging wellness in older adults

We all know exercise and physical activity is extremely important, and we know exercise has proven benefits for older people. It reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, colon cancer and breast cancer. It also decreases the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. 

Like everyone else, older people may know that exercise is good for their health, but they may not have the motivation or encouragement to do it. One way you can help is to guide those around you by asking about their daily activities and whether they engage in any kind of regular exercise or physical activity. 

There are several ways to encourage older adults to exercise:

  • Let them know that regular physical activity – including endurance, muscle-strengthening, balance, and flexibility exercises – is essential for healthy aging.
  • Help them set realistic goals and develop an exercise plan. 
  • Work together to write an exercise outline, and make it specific, including type, frequency, intensity, and time; follow up to check progress and re-evaluate goals over time.
  • Refer to opportunities in community resource listings, such as mall-walking groups and senior center fitness classes.

Nutrition

Older adults may develop poor eating habits for many reasons. These can range from a decreased sense of smell and taste to teeth problems or depression. Older adults may also have difficulty making their way to a supermarket or simply standing long enough to cook a meal. And, although energy needs may decrease with age, the need for certain vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, and vitamins B6 and B12, increases after age 50.

Try these strategies to encourage healthy diets:

  • Emphasize that good nutrition can have an impact on well-being and independence.
  • If needed, suggest they seek information about liquid nutrition supplements, but emphasize the benefits of solid foods.
  • If needed, suggest multivitamins that fulfill 100 percent of the recommended daily amounts of vitamins and minerals for older people, but steer clear of mega doses.
  • Encourage the older adult to have conversations with their primary care providers.

 

Too old to exercise? Studies say no!

Consider these facts:

  • Together, exercise and lifestyle changes, such as becoming more active and eating healthy food, reduce the risk of diabetes in high-risk older people. In one study, lifestyle changes led to a 71 percent decrease in diabetes among people 60 and older.
  • In another study, moderate exercise was effective at reducing stress and sleep problems in older women caring for a family member with dementia. 
  • Older people who exercise moderately can fall asleep quickly, sleep for longer periods and have better quality of sleep.
  • Researchers also found that exercise can improve balance and reduce falls among older people by 33 percent.
  • Walking and strength-building exercises by people with knee osteoarthritis help reduce pain and maintain function and quality of life.

Sometimes it’s hard to get moving, but oftentimes when a person gets up and around, he or she suddenly feels gratified and inspired. Let’s rally for that outcome with all older adults.

We would like to thank Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center for their insights. During this time, and all year long, it is important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable, and there is no shame in seeking assistance. Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. We provide treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield.